How Long Does It Take for Gonorrhea To Show up in Males?

Medically Reviewed on 3/9/2021

What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea — also called "the clap" — is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD). There are over one million new infections in the US each year.

Gonorrhea is an STD that can infect your genitals, mouth, or anus. People of any sex who are sexually active can get gonorrhea. It’s most common in sexually active people between the ages of 15 and 24, but it can occur at any age.

Symptoms of gonorrhea in men

Many cases of gonorrhea have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may appear anywhere from two to 30 days from the date of exposure, regardless of your sex.

In men, symptoms include:

  • Burning feeling while urinating
  • Discharge from the penis (may be white, yellow, or green)
  • Painful testicles
  • Swollen testicles 

Anal infections of gonorrhea cause symptoms including:

  • Discharge
  • Bleeding
  • Itchiness
  • Pain when going to the bathroom
  • Soreness 

You can also get gonorrhea in your throat from having unprotected oral sex. Most people with gonorrhea of the throat have no symptoms. If you do, it may just feel like a normal sore throat that lasts for a long time. There isn’t usually any pus associated with throat gonorrhea.

You can also get gonorrhea in the eyes if your eyes come into contact with infected fluids. Symptoms of gonorrhea in the eyes are similar to conjunctivitis (pink eye).

Causes of gonorrhea

The bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes gonorrhea. Close contact with the mucous membrane (usually genitals or mouth) or sexual fluids of an infected erson spreads the infection. 

It is possible to spread gonorrhea without ejaculation from a penis. 

Because many people with gonorrhea have no symptoms, it is easy to spread the bacteria to a sexual partner without knowing it. Talking about STDs with a partner before you have sex, knowing the facts about STDs, and understanding how STDs spread are helpful in determining the likelihood that someone may have gonorrhea. 

Tests for gonorrhea

For genital gonorrhea infections, doctors take a urine sample and test it for traces of the bacteria. For anal and oral infections, doctors take a swab of the affected area and test the sample. Doctors can also swab the genitals for testing but usually perform a urine test instead.

Doctors recommend that sexually active people between the ages of 21 and 25 get tested for gonorrhea once a year. Those over 25 should get tested for it when they have a new sexual partner or if they have unprotected sex. Getting tested even when you don't have symptoms can help prevent the spread of gonorrhea through asymptomatic carriers.

Treatments for gonorrhea

The usual treatment for gonorrhea is one injection of the antibiotic ceftriaxone, plus an oral dose of the antibiotic azithromycin. However, some people get an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea. At this time, there are still treatment options for antibiotic-resistant strains, but scientists and doctors must consistently monitor how effective antibiotics are against different strains.

After treatment, wait seven days before you have sex again to avoid spreading the infection to your sexual partner or partners.

If you test positive for gonorrhea, doctors often prescribe antibiotics for any sexual partners you have without examining them. This helps to quickly cure cases and stop the spread within your community. This type of treatment is called expedited partner therapy. Keep in mind that you should not share your personal, prescribed gonorrhea medication with anyone. 

Doctors recommend that you inform sexual partners from the previous two months about your gonorrhea diagnosis. You should do this even if your doctor does not recommend expedited partner therapy. That way, they can get tested and avoid complications from undiagnosed gonorrhea.

If you don’t get treated for gonorrhea, you may have permanent damage to your reproductive system and become infertile. Taking antibiotics for gonorrhea will treat the infection but won’t reverse any of the damage to your organs from leaving it untreated. If your symptoms don’t get better within a few days after treatment, you should see your doctor again.

In men, untreated gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful swelling of the tube at the back of the testicles. It can also cause infertility.

Additionally, untreated gonorrhea raises the risk of contracting or transmitting HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS.

In people of any sex, an untreated gonorrhea infection can spread to the blood or joints. This is a serious medical condition and requires immediate medical treatment.

Talk with your doctor to determine the best gonorrhea treatment for you. 

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Medically Reviewed on 3/9/2021
References
SOURCES:

Center for Community Practice: "Yes, You can get Throat Gonorrhea."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea Basic Information."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Expedited Partner Therapy."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed Version)."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Gonorrhea Treatment and Care."

KidsHealth: "Gonorrhea."

KidsHealth: "Talking to Your Partner About STDs."

Michigan Medicine: "Gonorrhea."

Minnesota Department of Health: "Gonorrhea."

National Coalition for Sexual Health: "This Is How Often You Need To Get Tested For STDs, Based On Your Relationship Status."

National Health Service: "Epididymitis."