Diagnosis and management of gonococcal infections

Am Fam Physician. 2012 Nov 15;86(10):931-8.


Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes urogenital, anorectal, conjunctival, and pharyngeal infections. Urogenital tract infections are most common. Men with gonorrhea may present with penile discharge and dysuria, whereas women may present with mucopurulent discharge or pelvic pain; however, women often are asymptomatic. Neonatal infections include conjunctivitis and scalp abscesses. If left untreated, gonorrhea may cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women, or it may disseminate, causing synovial and skin manifestations. Urogenital N. gonorrhoeae infection can be diagnosed using culture or nucleic acid amplification testing. Urine nucleic acid amplification tests have a sensitivity and specificity comparable to those of cervical and urethral samples. Fluoroquinolones are no longer recommended for the treatment of gonorrhea because of antimicrobial resistance. A single intramuscular injection of ceftriaxone, 250 mg, is first-line treatment for uncomplicated urogenital, anorectal, or pharyngeal gonococcal infections. This dosage is more effective for common pharyngeal infections than the previously recommended dose of 125 mg. Ceftriaxone should routinely be accompanied by azithromycin or doxycycline to address the likelihood of coinfection with Chlamydia trachomatis. Azithromycin may be used as an alternative treatment option for patients with previous allergic reactions to penicillin, but because of the likelihood of antimicrobial resistance, its use should be limited. Gonococcal infection should prompt physicians to test for other sexually transmitted infections, including human immunodeficiency virus. Because of high reinfection rates, patients should be retested in three to six months. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for gonorrhea in all sexually active women at increased risk of infection. It also recommends intensive behavioral counseling for persons with or at increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. Condom use is an effective strategy to reduce the risk of infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Azithromycin / administration & dosage
  • Ceftriaxone / administration & dosage
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Female Urogenital Diseases / drug therapy
  • Female Urogenital Diseases / microbiology
  • Gonorrhea / complications
  • Gonorrhea / diagnosis*
  • Gonorrhea / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Male
  • Male Urogenital Diseases / drug therapy
  • Male Urogenital Diseases / microbiology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Azithromycin