The Basics

There are several theories on why gonorrhea is called “the clap.” Some say docs referred to gonorrhea as “the collapse” during WWII and that “the clap” is a shortened version (or mispronunciation of) that. Others claim it’s from a barbaric treatment that involved literally clapping the penis to get rid of the pus. Ouch.

Whatever its nickname’s origin, gonorrhea is pretty common—and it’s only becoming more so. The CDC estimates that about 820,000 people get it—but less than half of those cases are actually reported.

How You Get It

Gonorrhea is sexually transmitted, meaning you can get it during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. (That’s because the bacteria lives in those areas.) You can’t get it from casual contact (hugging or holding hands) with someone who has it.

About 820,000 people get gonorrhea—but less than half of those cases are actually reported.

What’s It Like?

In the beginning, most people—especially women—don’t have any symptoms. If you do, they can appear one day to two weeks after the infection starts. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, pain during sex or urination, and, yes, pus or discharge from the genitals.

How Serious Is It?

Here’s the thing: Gonorrhea is usually treatable with antibiotics. But if you don’t know you have it, don’t get tested, or for some reason decide to ignore your symptoms, it can lead to more serious complications, such as infertility in men and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, which can also lead to infertility issues.

What Can I Do?

Use a condom and get tested frequently.

“For bacterial or viral infections, like gonorrhea or chlamydia, we treat them with antivirals or antibiotics,” says Raquel Dardik, M.D., an OB/GYN at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Most STIs are sensitive to antibiotics or antivirals—you don’t even need to do follow-up tests to make sure [the patient] was ‘adequately’ treated.”

It’s true: As long as you catch it early, you’ll take antibiotics—usually two (like ciprofloxacin and azithromycin) and get on with your (safer sex) life.

That said, you may have heard about “super gonorrhea,” drug-resistant forms that can’t be treated with current antibiotics. The CDC is working to slow the spread of this bacteria, and the WHO issued a release in late August 2016 urging new gonorrhea treatment guidelines that use stronger antibiotics.

The number of people infected with three major STDs, including gonorrhea, is at an all-time high (yikes!). We’re tackling common misconceptions about STIs and STDs to help #ShattertheSTIgma. Because getting tested should be NBD.