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What Is Oral Gonorrhea?

Oral gonorrhea is a variety of gonorrhea which affects the pharynx, the space between the mouth and esophagus, and is usually contracted from oral sex.

What Causes Oral Gonorrhea?

Just like other forms of gonorrhea, oral gonorrhea is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. When someone has gonorrhea, this bacterium infects their semen, vaginal fluids, and urine.

Oral gonorrhea is usually contracted by performing oral sex on someone with gonorrhea. You can also contract oral gonorrhea by performing analingus or being urinated on by someone with gonorrhea.

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In rare cases, the disease can be transmitted via objects such as sex toys and fingers. For example, you could get oral gonorrhea if you used a sex toy on someone with gonorrhea, and then put that sex toy in your mouth.

What Are the Symptoms of Oral Gonorrhea?

Up to 90% of people with oral gonorrhea have no symptoms at all. When the infection does cause symptoms, they usually manifest between three days and three weeks after infection. These symptoms are relatively mild, but they can be alleviated with treatment. Some of the most common symptoms of oral gonorrhea include:

  • Sore throat, which usually occurs suddenly and without any cold- or flu-like symptoms.
  • Difficulty or discomfort when drinking or swallowing food.
  • Vomiting.
  • Throat appears red and inflamed, sometimes with white spots.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • White- or yellow-colored discharge from the throat.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Inflamed tonsils (tonsillitis).
  • Sores or lesions in and around the mouth.

If left untreated, oral gonorrhea can cause more serious symptoms including:

  • Joint pain or swelling.
  • Pain in wrist and hell tendons.
  • A pink or red topical rash which may become pus-filled.
  • Feeling generally unwell.
  • Inflamed or swollen testicles.
  • Damage to the heart’s inner lining.
  • Meningitis.
  • Infertility.

How Common Is Oral Gonorrhea?

Oral gonorrhea is far less common than gonorrhea that infects the genitals. It is observed in between 3% and 7% of men who have sex with other men, 0.4% of heterosexual men, and 0.1% of women.

How Do You Prevent Oral Gonorrhea?

Using dental dams, condoms, or both during oral sex and rimming is the most effective way to prevent oral gonorrhea. When engaging in sexual contact, try to avoid bodily fluids coming into contact with the mouth. If you notice your partner has thick or unusually odorous genital or anal discharge, you might avoid oral sex and choose different ways to pleasure one another until they seek treatment.

Take care when using sex toys and other items that might transfer the bacteria too. It’s best to wash these items thoroughly with warm water and a mild dish soap after each use, and when you’re moving from one hole to another, to reduce the risk of infections like oral gonorrhea.

How Is Oral Gonorrhea Diagnosed?

Oral gonorrhea is usually diagnosed with a throat swab. If the sample tests positively for Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria, then the oral gonorrhea diagnosis is confirmed.

If you test positive for gonorrhea, or your partner does, it’s worth asking for an oral gonorrhea test, even if you aren’t showing any symptoms. If you engage in oral sex, there is a chance you may have this type of gonorrhea too. At Nurx, we offer online ordering and delivery for comprehensive STI test kits that can test for gonorrhea in multiple areas of the body, including the throat.

How is Oral Gonorrhea Treated?

As gonorrhea can spread throughout the body, you should seek medical assistance if you feel you may have this condition.

The most common treatment for oral gonorrhea is a shot of ceftriaxone and a single dose of azithromycin, taken orally.

Oral gonorrhea can become resistant to antibiotics and difficult to treat. If you do not feel your oral gonorrhea has cleared up after taking your medications, seek further medical advice.

If you have oral gonorrhea, it’s a good idea to encourage your sexual partners from the last 60 days to seek medical treatment too. The CDC encourages recent sexual partners to be evaluated and treated by a medical team to prevent further transmission and reinfection.

Is Oral Gonorrhea the Same as Strep Throat?

While oral gonorrhea and strep throat can both make your throat sore and inflamed, they are very different medical conditions. Strep throat is caused by a different kind of bacteria, A. Streptococcus. However, as their symptoms are similar, it’s worth seeking medical advice to confirm which condition you might have.

While both conditions can be transmitted by kissing, this is the more likely cause of strep throat. Oral gonorrhea is usually caused by oral sex. You can’t get strep throat by performing oral sex on someone with strep throat. Consequently, strep throat usually affects younger people while oral gonorrhea usually affects adults.

Further Reading

Kissing may be an important and neglected risk factor for oropharyngeal gonorrhoea: a cross-sectional study in men who have sex with men, BMJ Journals, May 2019

New thinking on gonorrhea control in MSM: are antiseptic mouthwashes the answer?, National Center for Biotechnology Information, February 2018

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