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What is Pharyngeal Gonorrhea?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Pharyngeal gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that is also known as gonorrhea of the throat or oral gonorrhea. Instead of the main infection that occurs on or near the genitals, this form of the illness causes infection with the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae in the throat, typically as a result of oral sex with an infected partner. When symptomatic, pharyngeal gonorrhea can cause an extremely sore throat, but not all people show symptoms of the illness.

The fact that pharyngeal gonorrhea may be asymptomatic can be significant. While some people might recover without treatment, they may also run the risk of carrying the bacteria and infecting partners with repeated oral sexual activity. This type of illness has shown up in high proportions of teens who engage in oral sexual activities in groups, and until it is treated, it can continue to be passed around. A high incidence of this illness has further been noted in some male homosexual groups if they fail to practice safer sex.

When pharyngeal gonorrhea is accompanied by symptoms, they usually occur within a week of when the infection was first transmitted. Most often what people notice is a dry, hoarse or extremely sore throat. Slight fever or general flu-like symptoms may occur at the same time, and cases of pharyngeal gonorrhea are very often dismissed by people as signs the onset of a flu or cold. Hopefully, those infected will make the connection between the symptoms, and any risky engagements in the last few weeks and seek treatment by a doctor.

At a doctor’s office, people may have a throat culture that confirms the presence of Neisseria. When confirmed, doctors usually prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Doctors generally give guidelines to patients on when they can resume normal sexual activities, but these may vary depending on what type of antibiotics are employed and whether these adequately address the infection.

At the same time, anyone with pharyngeal gonorrhea needs to consider potential sources of infection. This disease doesn’t occur by chance and results by passing bacteria during specific engagement in certain behaviors. If people catch the illness early, they may have a good sense if their partner(s), need to be informed. These partners need to get tested for the disease and may require treatment too. Without everyone in the loop being tested and getting appropriate assistance, the illness can still get passed back and forth.

Clearly, it’s also useful to pursue safer sex practices. Condoms should be worn no matter the type of sexual intercourse, to avoid direct contact between mucus membranes, mouth, and genitals. They can lower incidence of disease and protect partners from exchanging bacteria or viruses that cause illness like gonorrhea.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Pippinwhite — On Feb 10, 2014

"Teens who engage in oral sexual activities in groups"? Clearly, I am getting very, very old. I didn't think I was, but I must be if this kind of activity is news to me (teens doing it, anyway).

At least antibiotics will treat it, but it underlines yet again the importance of using a fresh condom for every sex act, particularly if you are not monogamous.

I swear, when I saw that bit about "sexual activities in groups, " I swear I thought about that Tom Lehrer song, "I Got it from Agnes." There's the line, "whatever we get, we share!" So apropos for this topic. Unreal.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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