What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea, also known as the “clap,” is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria. It is common in both men and women. The rate of gonorrhea infections has grown sharply in Denver, up 150 percent in 2018 from four years earlier to an estimated 2,703 cases, according to preliminary data. Increases in gonorrhea cases have been seen in both men and women, and the greatest increases in cases have been amongst Latinos, followed by African Americans.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are around 820,000 new gonorrhea infections in the U.S. each year. 


Gonorrhea can affect the genitals, rectum and throat. Gonorrhea doesn’t always cause symptoms. If symptoms occur, the most common symptoms include:

  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Painful or swollen testicles
  • Abnormal or increased vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods
  • Pelvic pain in women only
  • Sore throat
  • Rectal discharge, pain or bleeding
  • Anal itching
  • Pain with bowel movements


How is gonorrhea spread?

  • Gonorrhea is spread by having unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who has it (even if they don’t have symptoms). 
  • A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can pass it on to her baby during vaginal delivery.

Who is at risk for gonorrhea?

  • All men and women who are having (or have ever had) unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex are at risk for gonorrhea infection. 
  • All recent sexual partners of someone who is diagnosed with gonorrhea. 


What should I do if I think I have gonorrhea?

  • Visit your doctor or local public health department to get tested. 
  • Stop having sex (even with a condom) until you speak with your doctor. 


Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics. It is extremely important to follow instructions carefully and take all medication as prescribed. Although medication cures the infection, it will not cure permanent damage caused by pelvic inflammatory disease in women or prevent you from getting gonorrhea again.

What are the long-term health problems of untreated gonorrhea?

  • In women: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which can lead to infertility or increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. 
  • In men: potential infertility. 
  • In rare cases, gonorrhea can cause fever, rash, arthritis, and other organ dysfunction. 


How can I lower my chances of getting gonorrhea?

For more information, call the Sexual Health Clinic at (303) 602-3540.
Sources: American Sexual Health Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention