Medically reviewed on November 22, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Discovering symptoms of any health condition is never enjoyable—but it can be even more bewildering if you think you might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Not only is sexual health seldom discussed openly, but certain conditions can be difficult to spot in the first place.
Gonorrhea is one such condition. While most strains of gonorrhea are treatable and even curable, many people who carry the bacteria don’t exhibit signs of infection at all. So, how long can you have gonorrhea without knowing?
But just because gonorrhea is insidious doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive about prevention. Here, we’ll take a look at how gonorrhea is contracted, the typical timeline for noticing symptoms, and what to do if you find out you have it.
Gonorrhea is an STI that can impact several different areas of the body, including the genitals, anus, and oropharyngeal areas (the mouth and throat) .
It’s predominantly transmitted via sexual contact with an infected person, but the area(s) infected will depend on:
You should also be careful about sharing sex toys with your partner during intercourse, as it may pose a risk if they are infected.
Some also wonder: can you get gonorrhea from kissing? One 2019 study suggested that it may be possible to contract an oropharyngeal gonorrhea infection by kissing a sexual partner that's already infected . However, data on transmitting gonorrhea via kissing is still new, and most information you’ll find on prevention revolves around other sexual activities.
It’s precisely because gonorrhea’s symptoms are hard to spot that data about symptom onset is limited . If you do exhibit observable symptoms, however, they may be noticeable as early as 1 week following infection [3,4].
Moreover, your anatomy significantly impacts when you’re likely to notice symptoms (if you have them) :
So, why is gonorrhea so difficult to spot? Medical experts think it’s for three reasons :
If you’re one of the people who experience gonorrhea symptoms, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Untreated gonorrhea may lead to some health implications later on.
The steps below will help you protect you and your partners from infection and the potential long-term effects of gonorrhea.
There are three options for gonorrhea testing:
If you receive a positive result, do your best to contact everyone you’ve had sex with since receiving your test results.
Depending on how long it’s been since your last test and the number of partners you’ve had since then, this could be a lengthy process. In some cases, you simply may not be able to contact all of your past partners.
However, trying your best to alert the people you’ve been intimate with could help prevent the further spread of the infection.
After you receive a positive result and inform your partners (or while you’re working on contacting your partners), speak with a healthcare provider about how to treat gonorrhea.
A few different places should be able to prescribe or administer the medications you’ll need to cure the bacterial infection:
If you’re sexually active, one of the most critical tools for staying vigilant about your sexual health is to get tested for STIs regularly.
Whether you screen for gonorrhea or other STIs, using the Everlywell at-home STD tests let you bypass the hassle of referrals, wait times, and slow turnarounds. Everlywell gives you access to at-home testing (including a gonorrhea test with sample collection at home, as well as a trichomoniasis home test, HCV Test, and at-home Syphilis Test), fast, comprehensive results, and our wide network of treatment resources (including telemedicine Virtual Care Visits).