Common Questions About Gonorrhea

What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae that can infect the genital tract, rectum, and throat. It is a very serious and potentially dangerous infection if left untreated. Gonorrhea, like other STDs, often comes with questions. In this article, we’ll cover some of the most frequently asked ones.


How common is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is one of the most common STIs in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that more than 1.6 million people in the US were infected with gonorrhea in a single 12-month period.  Gonorrhea rates are highest among teenagers and young adults, but any sexually active person can get the infection.


How is gonorrhea contracted?

Gonorrhea is spread through contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus. Typically, gonorrhea is contracted by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a partner who has gonorrhea or from sharing sex toys with someone that has the infection. You can also get gonorrhea by touching your eyes after you have touched something that is contaminated with the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria.


What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

Some people who have gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. When you don’t have symptoms, it is known as an asymptomatic infection. While having no symptoms may spare you from discomfort, asymptomatic gonorrhea can still cause serious health complications and the infection can be unknowingly spread to others.

If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several days after you are infected. For some individuals, symptoms are mild, while others experience more severe symptoms. Symptoms can include a burning feeling when you urinate, unusual discharge from the penis or vagina, pain in your lower belly, itching in your genitals, bleeding between periods, swollen glands in your throat, and fever.


How do I avoid getting gonorrhea?

The number one way to prevent getting gonorrhea (or any other STI) is by only having sex with an uninfected person in a monogamous relationship. If you do have sex outside of that type of committed relationship, always practice safe sex. This means using condoms or dental dams during vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Don’t be pressured into engaging in unsafe sexual activity. You owe it to yourself to be healthy and safe.


When should I get tested for gonorrhea?

The only way to know for sure if you have gonorrhea is to get tested. It is important to get tested for gonorrhea regularly (at least once per year) if you are sexually active, especially if you have multiple partners or a partner that is at risk for carrying the disease. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, testing is important to make sure you are not a carrier. Like other STDs/STIs, early detection and treatment are key to preventing the spread.

If you are sexually active and have not been tested for STDs/STIs recently, or if you think you may have contracted an STD/STI, it is important to get tested as soon as possible. At RealOptions, we provide STD/STI testing to both men and women. Contact us to schedule an appointment, or visit one of our locations during our open hours for testing and consultations.


How is gonorrhea testing done?

At RealOptions, STD/STI testing is quick and easy. For those without insurance we start by taking a urine sample. That sample is sent to a lab for processing and the results are usually available within a few days. Please do not urinate or engage in sexual intercourse for at least one hour before your urine test, as this will ensure the most accurate results possible. If you test positive for an infection from the urine test, we will provide treatment and explain how your partner(s) can be treated as well.

For those with insurance we provide a requisition for Quest Diagnostics where they will collect the urine sample for your test at no cost to you. If you are insured and prefer not to use your insurance, you are able to leave a urine sample at RealOptions at a low cost. 


How is gonorrhea treated?

Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics. All recent sexual partners of an infected person should also be tested and treated even if they do not have any symptoms.


What happens if gonorrhea is not treated?

If gonorrhea is not treated, it can lead to serious health problems for the infected individual. Untreated gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, which can lead to infertility and other complications. Additionally, a pregnant woman with gonorrhea can pass it on to her unborn baby. Men may experience infertility, pain, and swelling in the testicles if they are not treated.  Long-term infection can also increase the risk of contracting other STIs, such as HIV.


What should I do if I think I have gonorrhea?

If you think you may have been exposed to gonorrhea or have symptoms of the infection, it is important that you get tested as soon as possible. You should abstain from sexual activity until you receive a negative test result or are 7 days post treatment for your infection. Also, it is important to make sure all of your sexual partners are also tested and treated as needed. If treatment is needed, it is important that you take all of your prescribed medications exactly as directed, even if your symptoms go away. Doing so can help ensure that the infection is completely eliminated and prevent the bacteria in your body from becoming tolerant to treatment.


If I have gonorrhea, how do I tell my partner(s)?

If you have tested positive for gonorrhea, it’s important to inform any recent sexual partners of the infection. You may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to do this, but it is important to take responsibility for your health and the health of others. Be sure to maintain the privacy of the person that you’re informing. Never send out a group text or message to multiple partners. If you aren’t sure how to approach the conversation or need assistance informing your partner(s) about your decision, RealOptions provides consultations and support. Let us help.


Does a Medi-Cal plan cover testing and treatment for gonorrhea?

RealOptions Obria Medical Clinics is a qualified Medi-Cal provider, which means our STD/STI testing and treatment services are low to no cost to those with Medi-Cal coverage.

If you haven’t heard of it before, Medi-Cal is a low or no-cost health insurance for eligible residents of California. If you have a plan through Medi-Cal, you can get free treatment for gonorrhea and other STDs/STIs at any of our clinics. If you want to know if you’re eligible for a Medi-Cal plan, here are some useful methods to find out:

  1. Contact MCAP at (800) 433-2611.
  2. Call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.
  3. Apply online at via email with a confirmation or notification for the best available time.


I have more questions, how do I get answers?

If you still have questions or concerns about gonorrhea, our staff is here to help. Contact us or visit us at one of our locations to receive the information, resources, and care that you deserve.

Click here to schedule an online appointment at one of our locations or call:

400 30th St #401
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 891-9998

801 Brewster Ave Unit 210
Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 261-9115

1671 The Alameda #101
San Jose, CA
(408) 978-9310

12 N White Rd
San Jose, CA
(408) 272-5577

33523 Western Ave.
Union City, CA 94857
(510) 487-4357


Medical information regarding gonorrhea is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last pulled 11/25/22) (last pulled 11/25/22)