Gonorrhea, also known as “the clap”, is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhea can infect the genitals, rectum, and throat. The time it takes gonorrhea to heal depends on a few key factors:
How Is Gonorrhea Treated?
Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics, usually an injection of ceftriaxone along with a single oral dose of azithromycin or doxycycline. This dual therapy helps treat the infection more thoroughly and reduces the risk of antibiotic resistance.
With appropriate treatment, most cases of uncomplicated gonorrhea at urogenital sites (genitals, anus) can be cured with a single dose of medication. It typically takes 1-3 days for the infection to be completely cured after starting antibiotics.
For pharyngeal (throat) infections, a 7-day course of oral antibiotics may be needed to fully cure the infection. Rectal infections also may require a longer course of treatment.
How Soon Do Symptoms Improve?
Most people will begin to notice an improvement in symptoms within 1-3 days after starting antibiotic treatment for gonorrhea. Discharge from the penis or vagina decreases, painful urination improves, and any sore throat begins to feel better.
However, some symptoms may persist or even worsen in the first 1-3 days as the body’s immune response reacts to the dying bacteria. Mild discharge or discomfort with urination may continue for up to 2 weeks after finishing treatment.
If discharge, pain, or other symptoms continue or get worse 3-5 days after finishing antibiotics, it is important to follow up with a healthcare provider to ensure the infection has been cured.
When Is Gonorrhea No Longer Contagious?
Gonorrhea becomes non-contagious once antibiotic treatment is completed. However, a person with gonorrhea can still transmit the infection to others up until the full course of antibiotics is finished.
To prevent spreading the infection, abstain from all sexual activity for 7 days after finishing treatment and until partners have also been treated.
How Soon Can I Have Sex Again?
Most experts recommend waiting at least 7 days after finishing treatment for gonorrhea before having sex again. This allows enough time for the antibiotics to clear the infection from the body completely.
Before resuming any sexual activity, it’s crucial that sex partners are notified and treated as well. If not, reinfection is very likely. Consistent condom use will help prevent reinfection.
Those treated for pharyngeal gonorrhea should wait at least 14 days after finishing antibiotics before having oral sex again. A longer period of abstinence provides more time for the throat infection to be cured.
Does Gonorrhea Go Away on Its Own?
Without treatment, gonorrhea will not go away on its own. The infection may clear briefly in some cases, but it will return and persist if not treated with antibiotics.
Over time, untreated gonorrhea can lead to many complications:
- Epididymitis in men
- Pelvic inflammatory disease in women
- Infertility in both sexes
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Disseminated gonococcal infection (joint pain, rash)
Rarely, untreated gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints and become life-threatening. It is critical to get tested and treated if gonorrhea is suspected.
How Soon After Treatment Can I Get Tested Again?
Health experts recommend getting retested for gonorrhea 3-4 weeks after finishing treatment. This confirms that the antibiotic therapy was effective in curing the infection fully.
Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) are the preferred method of testing and can detect gonorrhea within 1-2 weeks of infection.
Retesting should also occur 3 months after treatment, as reinfection is common. Sex partners should be referred for testing and treatment as well to prevent ping-ponging infections back and forth.
- With appropriate antibiotics, most uncomplicated gonorrhea infections can be cured within 1-3 days.
- Symptoms may initially worsen but then begin improving 1-3 days after starting treatment.
- Gonorrhea remains contagious until a full course of antibiotics is completed.
- Wait 7 days after treatment before having sex again to allow the infection to clear.
- Get retested 3-4 weeks and 3 months after finishing treatment.
- Make sure sex partners are treated before resuming sexual activity.
In summary, most uncomplicated gonorrhea infections can be cured with antibiotics within 1-3 days, though discharge or discomfort may persist for up to 2 weeks. The infection remains contagious until treatment is finished, so avoiding sexual activity for at least 7 days allows time for antibiotics to work. Follow-up testing is important to confirm the infection is fully resolved.
With appropriate diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, the long-term complications of untreated gonorrhea can be avoided. However, reinfection is common if sex partners are not also tested and treated. Practicing safer sex by using condoms consistently and limiting sexual partners can help reduce the risk of contracting gonorrhea.