ID: 249
Category: Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
CreatedBy: 1
UpdatedBy: 1
createdon: 14 Jul 2017
updatedon: 23 May 2023

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Author: Khoa Tran
Published Jul 14, 2017
Updated May 23, 2023

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Etymology and Pronunciation

gonorrhea (gon-uh-ree-uh)
gonos - Greek for "seed"
rhea - Greek for "flow" or "discharge"

History of Gonorrhea

In the year 2600 BC, the Chinese emperor Huang Ti mentioned a disease resembling gonorrhea in his textbook. It is believed that references in the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament also allude to this disease. Hippocrates, the Greek physician (460–375 BC), termed it "strangury" and associated it with the "pleasures of Venus." Celsus (25 BC–50 AD) was aware of gonorrhea and its complications, employing catheterization in patients with urethral strictures. Galen (131–200 AD) coined the term "gonorrhea," defining it as an "unwanted discharge of semen."

Throughout history, outbreaks of STIs, including gonorrhea, often occurred during wars. Roman soldiers fighting with Julius Caesar were known to suffer from gonorrhea, and the Crimean War (1854–1856) witnessed numerous deaths caused by STIs. In an effort to combat the spread of "the perilous infirmity of burning," an English law was passed around 1161 AD, followed by a similar law enacted by French king Louis IX in 1256 AD.

Confusion surrounding the relationship between gonorrhea and syphilis arose when syphilis arrived in Europe in the late 15th century. Ambroise Pare and John Hunter believed they were manifestations of the same disease, but in 1838, Phillippe Ricord definitively established them as separate entities.

In 1879, Albert Ludwig Sigesmund Neisser discovered the causative organism, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, with his findings published in 1882. Leistikow and Bumm successfully cultured the organism in 1882 and 1885, respectively, reproducing characteristic symptoms and signs of the infection by inoculating it into the male urethra. The introduction of the gonococcal complement fixation test occurred in 1906, and in 1914, ophthalmia neonatorum was made a notifiable disease in England and Wales.

Stuart's medium, a transport medium for gonococci, was developed in 1946, and the Chacko Nair medium for culturing gonococci was devised in the late 1960s. Currently, nucleic acid amplification tests serve as the gold standard for diagnosing gonorrhea.

Modern Understanding of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection that affects both men and women. It is caused by a bacterium and can be spread through sexual contact. 

The symptoms of gonorrhea can vary between men and women. In men, the symptoms may include a burning sensation when urinating, discharge from the penis, and swollen testicles. Women may experience vaginal discharge, painful urination, and bleeding between periods. 

It is important to get tested for gonorrhea if you think you may have been exposed to it. This is because gonorrhea can lead to serious health problems if left untreated. In addition to causing infertility in both men and women, untreated gonorrhea can also increase the risk of HIV transmission. 

Prevention is key when it comes to gonorrhea. Practicing safe sex, using condoms and getting tested regularly can help reduce the risk of getting infected.

Causes of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It spreads through unprotected sexual contact with an infected person. The most common way of transmission is through vaginal, anal or oral sex. An infected mother can also pass the infection to her newborn during childbirth. 

Factors that increase the likelihood of getting infected with gonorrhea include having multiple sexual partners, having unprotected sex, having a history of STIs, and being sexually active at a young age. Certain practices such as douching or using certain types of contraceptives can also increase the risk of gonorrhea infection. 

It is important to note that anyone can contract gonorrhea regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial in preventing the spread of the infection and reducing the risk of complications. Therefore, if you suspect that you may have been exposed to gonorrhea or any other STI, it is important to get tested and seek appropriate medical attention.

Treatments for Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics. The most effective treatment is a combination of two antibiotics, typically either ceftriaxone and azithromycin or doxycycline and azithromycin. Treatment is essential to prevent serious complications such as infertility, infection of the joints, or the spread of the infection to other parts of the body. It is important to complete the full course of antibiotics as directed by your healthcare provider, even if your symptoms appear to have improved. Additionally, sexual partners should also be tested and treated to prevent re-infection. It is always recommended to practice safe sex by using condoms during sexual activity to reduce the risk of getting or spreading the infection.

Lifestyle Changes

While lifestyle changes alone cannot cure gonorrhea, they can play a role in managing the condition and reducing the risk of transmission. Here are some lifestyle changes that can help:

- Abstain from sexual activity: It is important to abstain from any sexual activity, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex, until you have completed the full course of treatment and your doctor confirms that the infection has cleared.
- Practice safe sex: Consistently and correctly using latex condoms or dental dams can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting gonorrhea. However, it's important to note that condoms may not provide complete protection, as the infection can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact in areas not covered by condoms.
- Inform sexual partners: If you have been diagnosed with gonorrhea, it's essential to inform your sexual partners so they can seek testing and treatment. Encourage them to get tested and treated to prevent reinfection and further spread of the infection.
- Complete the full course of treatment: It is crucial to complete the entire course of antibiotics prescribed by your healthcare provider, even if symptoms improve or disappear. Skipping doses or stopping treatment prematurely can lead to antibiotic resistance and recurrent infections.
- Get regular check-ups: If you have been diagnosed with gonorrhea, regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider are important to monitor your progress, ensure the infection has cleared, and discuss any concerns or questions you may have.
- Practice good hygiene: Maintaining good personal hygiene can help prevent the spread of gonorrhea. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after sexual activity, and avoid sharing towels or personal items with others.
- Get tested for other STIs: Gonorrhea often coexists with other sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia or HIV. It is recommended to get tested for other STIs as well, as they can have similar symptoms and may require additional treatment.

Remember, lifestyle changes should be accompanied by appropriate medical treatment. If you suspect you have gonorrhea or any other sexually transmitted infection, it is important to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis, treatment, and guidance.


Pain or swelling in one or both testicles
Soreness or tenderness in the mouth or throat
Vaginal bleeding between periods
Vaginal discharge
Itching in the vagina and vulva
Painful intercourse (sex)
Pain or burning during urination/peeing
Dark colored urine/pee
Cloudy urine/pee

Confirmation Tests

- Gonorrhea culture
- Gram stain
- Nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT)
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

Similar Conditions

Supplimentary Articles

Gonorrhea was sometimes called "The Clap" because people infected with it might experience a sensation similar to clapping when urinating.
Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician, used the term "strangury" to describe gonorrhea. He believed that the infection was caused by engaging in sexual activities.
The Greek physician Galen (131–200 AD) came up with the term "gonorrhea." He described it as an undesired flow of semen, using the words "gono" for seed and "rhea" for flow.