Gonorrhea In The Throat: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

gonorhea in the throat
Medically reviewed by Richard Honaker M.D.

Key takeaways 

  1. Oral gonorrhea, also called pharyngeal gonorrhea, is a sexually transmitted disease, especially from oral sex. It is caused due to the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae present in the pre-cum, cum (semen) and vaginal fluids.
  2. It can affect the throat and other parts of the body, including the urethra, anus, rectum, penis and vagina. Symptoms range from sore throat, fever, burning while urinating, and pain during intercourse. 
  3. Proven treatment for oral gonorrhea is the use of antibiotics as per the prescription written by a healthcare provider. Home remedies might alleviate the symptoms but can not treat this infection. Getting a consultation from a healthcare provider helps in getting the correct diagnosis as well as treatment.

Overview 

Gonorrhea in the throat is a condition that is acquired through unprotected oral sex. Most people, specifically teenagers, are under the impression that oral sex is “safe.” This is mainly because it eliminates or helps avoid the risk of pregnancy. However, “safe sex” refers to sex practices that prevent the possibility of getting a disease from a sex partner. Oral sex is unsafe unless you take precautions to avoid the risk of transmission. Sexually transmitted infections (STDs) may be transferred through oral sex, including chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhea. 

What is throat gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea throat infection, also called pharyngeal gonorrhea, is an STD pharynx infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Infection transfers by direct contact with white/yellowish pus-like discharge containing the bacteria from the infected sex partner. N. gonorrhea bacterium produces this discharge which causes infection or inflammation in the local tissue. The discharge mixes with a person’s vaginal and seminal fluids, affecting the mucus membranes of the rectum. The infection is passed on by contacting another person’s oral mucus membranes. Throat gonorrhea affecting the pharynx may produce no symptoms (asymptomatic), but it can also cause sore throat symptoms. Gonorrhea symptoms in the throat can resemble strep throat, with pain while swallowing food, redness at the back, and white spots on the tonsils. People performing fellatio (oral contact with a penis) are more likely to get gonococcal pharyngitis than those with cunnilingus (oral contact with the vagina/ clitoris). Men who have sex with other men have a higher risk of getting oral gonorrhea.

Although the body may sometimes clear gonorrhea in the throat within a few weeks, not all people can fight the infection. In some cases, specifically in immunocompromised individuals, the disease can spread throughout the body (disseminated gonorrhea).

Oral Gonorrhea Symptoms

Typically, gonorrhea in the mouth doesn’t cause any symptoms. However, even if symptoms are due to gonorrhea in the throat, they can be hard to distinguish from symptoms of throat infections caused by other conditions. 

Gonorrhea throat symptoms include:

  • sore throat
  • fever
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck region
  • redness at the back of the throat/oral cavity 

It is possible for a person with gonorrhea of the throat to develop a gonorrhea infection in another part of the body, including the cervix or urethra. 

Generally, gonorrhea symptoms in men and women include: 

  • pain or burning while urinating
  • unusual penile discharge or vaginal 
  • pain during intercourse
  • swollen testicles
  • swollen lymph nodes in the groin
Do you have a sore throat after oral intercourse? It could be a sign of Gonorrhea. You can get tested and treated by a doctor.

How do you get gonorrhea in the throat?

The mode of transmission or oral gonorrhea is oral sex on the genitals or anus of someone infected with gonorrhea. This includes oral sex to the penis ( fellatio), the vagina (cunnilingus), and the anus (anilingus).

Some studies claim that kissing can transmit it as well.

How is gonorrhea in the throat diagnosed?

If you have had oral sex, you will need to inform your doctor so that you can have your throat exam, especially if you get tested for gonorrhea. Culture is the “gold standard” test for gonorrhea in the throat. The nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) helps diagnose genital gonorrhea. The culture test for gonorrhea is done using a sterile swab. The swab is rubbed against the back of the throat and then onto a culture plate. It takes time to get your test results as the bacterial colonies require several days to grow and multiply. If someone tests positive for gonorrhea, they should also run tests for other STIs like chlamydia, HIV, and syphilis.

Gonorrhea in the throat treatment

Gonorrhoea in the mouth is more challenging to treat than genital gonorrhea. However, proper antibiotics intake can contain it.

The CDC recommends treating uncomplicated gonorrhea with a single 500-milligram (mg) intramuscular dose of ceftriaxone. Although, people who weigh around 330 lbs (150 kg) should receive a single 1-gram dose of ceftriaxone instead. 

These recommendations for gonorrhea medication are applicable for infections involving the genitals, pharynx, anus and rectum. Previously ceftriaxone plus oral azithromycin was the recommended treatment, but the treatment protocol has changed due to the emerging resistance to azithromycin. 

Chlamydial infection can co-occur with gonorrhea. In that case, doctors prescribe 100 mg of doxycycline twice daily for seven days.

In individuals allergic to cephalosporin, an intramuscular dose of gentamicin(240mg) plus a 2-g oral dose of azithromycin is an option.

How likely is oral gonorrhea recurrence?

There aren’t any exact stats available on how likely is the recurrence of oral gonorrhea.

However, the recurrence for other types of gonorrhea is higher, ranging from 3.6 to 11 percent of previously treated people.

It is of utmost importance that you avoid all forms of sexual contact, including oral sex and kissing, at least for 7 days after completing treatment.

Furthermore, you should rediagnose 3 to 6 months after treatment, even if you and your partner(s) completed the treatment and do not have any symptoms. Testing for other STDs can be a good option as well. 

Have you had oral intercourse? You can get an STD, talk to our doctor to find out if your symptoms are worrisome!

Natural Remedies For Oral Gonorrhea 

Antibiotics are the only successful way to treat gonorrhea. Although any robust studies do not back the following remedies, they may help relieve the symptoms or help boost your overall immunity. 

  • Garlic: Garlic has antibacterial properties, making it a popular choice to treat bacterial infections at home.
  • Listerine: Researchers have studied the effects of the antiseptic mouthwash on gonorrhea bacteria in the throat. The study revealed decreased colonization of the bacteria in the throat of individuals who used the mouthwash. 
  • Goldenseal: Goldenseal is a plant used by European settlers in the early 1800s due to its antimicrobial properties. Its intake can be as a berberine supplement of 500 mg three times a day. It is generally safe. However, do not consume it without taking medications to lower blood glucose levels. Some minor side includes flatulence, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea.
  • Aloe Vera: This can be used as a gel or a drink to get the benefit. It also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, providing multiple health benefits. 
  • Raw Honey. Using a tablespoon of raw honey or mixing it in warm water or tea and drinking it can relieve sore throat pain. Additionally, it helps the body fight multiple infections. 

What happens if gonorrhea in the throat is left untreated? 

Untreated oral gonorrhea may spread through your bloodstream to infect other parts of your body.

Although rare, this can lead to systemic gonococcal infection. This is also called disseminated gonococcal infection.

Systemic gonococcal infection is a critical condition that can result in sores on the skin, joint pain and swelling. Another complication is an infection in the heart, which is very rare.

Gonorrhea of the genitals or anus can cause other serious complications such as:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Infertility
  • Epididymitis
  • Increased risk of contracting HIV

Preventing gonorrhea in the throat

The only way to avoid getting gonorrhea anywhere in the body is to abstain from oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Additionally, avoiding sharing sex toys can help reduce or eliminate the chances of transmitting gonorrhea. If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk of catching gonorrhea by:

  • Using dental dam or condoms every time you have sex, whether vaginal, oral, or anal.
  • Staying in a monogamous relationship with a person who has been tested and has no infection. 

Is mouthwash enough, or do you need antibiotics?

People think that using a mouthwash can help cure gonorrhea. Although, there isn’t any robust evidence to verify the claim.

A particular study claimed that mouthwash significantly decreased the number of bacteria causing gonorrhea) on the throat surface but there further. More research and studies are vital to access this. Although, antibiotics are a promising cure only.

Oral gonorrhea vs strep throat

Strep throat and oral gonorrhea and two different infections. Although, due to the similarity in symptoms, these two conditions can sometimes be hard to differentiate. Oral gonorrhea transmits by having oral sex or kissing and is an STD. In comparison, strep throat is a bacterial infection that transmits by coughing or sneezing. To verify the cause, you must see a doctor and diagnose the condition by testing. Gonorrhea testing is completed using a throat swab.

Oral Gonorrhea Symptoms

A sore throat that persists for a long time may be a sign of gonorrhea. Other symptoms that indicate oral gonorrhea include:

  • Painful glands in your throat
  • Painful swallowing
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Lesions or redness at the back of the throat

Strep Throat Symptoms

As in the case of strep throat, a sore throat from gonorrhea may lead to a sore throat with redness. Strep throat often also causes white patches in the throat. A sore throat due to gonorrhea is usually reffered to as gonococcal pharyngitis.

Some other symptoms of strep throat include:

  • headache
  • a sudden high fever, often 101°F 
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • headache
  • pain while swallowing
  • fatigue
  • red spots at the back of the throat
  • swollen and enlarged tonsils with white patches/streaks of pus
  • Body aches

When to Consult a Doctor

Oral sex is not actually safe unless you use protection to prevent the risk of transmission of STDs. There are many sexually transmitted infections (STDs) that can be passed on through oral sex, including chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhea

If you or your sex partner(s) have infection or if you are doubtful that your current symptoms are due to a sore throat or oral gonorrhea, consult with our online doctor at Your Doctors online right away!

Do you have signs or symptoms of Gonorrhea. You can get tested and treated by a doctor.

FAQs About Gonorrhea in the Throat Answered by Your Doctors Online Team

Is oral gonorrhea rare?

No, it can occur easily by having unprotected oral intercourse. Mainly as it does not cause any symptoms, it can go undetected unless a person tests for it. 

Is oral gonorrhea curable?

Yes, oral gonorhea is curable. Common acute infections only require a single 500mg intramuscular dose of ceftriaxone.

How long does throat gonorrhea last?

You can have an oral gonorrheal infection for months if you are asymptomatic. If left untreated, ​it can last for 3-4 months.

How does oral gonorrhea spread?

The mode of transmission or oral gonorrhea is oral sex on the genitals or anus of someone infected with gonorrhea.

If I had unprotected oral, should I get tested?

You should go for testing if you have had unprotected sex, especially with a new partner. Testing will help start treatment promptly and help prevent any complications that may arise from STDs. 

Does oral gonorrhea clear on its own?

Oral gonorrhoa can clear up on its own within 3 months. Although, if you are aware that you have an infection, it is best to take medication for gonorrhea to prevent complications.

How to get rid of gonorrhea in the mouth?

Antibiotics help cure the infection. However, you must complete the treatment as advised by your doctor and not have sex for 7 days after completing treatment to prevent a recurrence. 

What does throat gonorrhea look like?

Throat gonorrhea is commonly mistaken for a sore throat or strep throat. It can present with pain in the throat, pain while swallowing, redness at the back of your throat or enlarged/inflamed tonsil. Therefore, it is essential to get a throat swab to diagnose the infection. 

Can mouthwash treat oral gonorrhea?

There isn’t sufficient evidence that confirms the role of mouth wash in treating oral gonorhea. However, using a mouthwash may help colonize the bacteria causing gonorrhea in the throat. 

How likely is oral gonorrhea to recur?

There aren’t any exact stats available on how likely is the recurrence of oral gonorrhea. However, the recurrence for other types of gonorrhea, such as genital gonorrhea is higher.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Walker, Cheryl K., and Richard L. Sweet. “Gonorrhea infection in women: prevalence, effects, screening, and management.” International journal of women’s health (2011): 197-206.
  • US Preventive Services Task Force. “Screening for gonorrhea: recommendation statement.” The Annals of Family Medicine 3.3 (2005): 263-267.
  • Unemo, Magnus, et al. “2020 European guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of gonorrhoea in adults.” International journal of STD & AIDS (2020): 0956462420949126.
  • Alirol, Emilie, et al. “Multidrug-resistant gonorrhea: A research and development roadmap to discover new medicines.” PLoS medicine 14.7 (2017): e1002366.
  • Newman, Lori M., John S. Moran, and Kimberly A. Workowski. “Update on the management of gonorrhea in adults in the United States.” Clinical Infectious Diseases 44.Supplement_3 (2007): S84-S101.

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