How Do I Get Tested For Gonorrhea?

Urine sample in doctor's office
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Question: How Do I Get Tested For Gonorrhea?

Answer: Healthcare providers test for gonorrhea in one of two ways:

  • Swab: A swab is taken of the urethra (men), cervix (women), throat (for people who have had oral sex), eye, and/or rectum (for people who have receptive anal sex). For women, the cervical swab is taken as part of a pelvic exam done with a speculum.
  • Urine: Some providers will also use a urine test to diagnose gonorrhea.

    Once a sample has been acquired, it is sent to a laboratory for testing. Depending on the sample and the lab, testing may involve growing gonorrhea from the sample, looking for bacterial DNA, or using antibodies to identify whether or not the sample contains any bacteria.

    Some providers can also do a test called a Gram stain in their office at the time of your visit. For this test, a sample taken from the urethra or cervix is stained with a special dye that makes it easy to spot Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterium that causes gonorrhea, under the microscope. Although this test can provide results faster than other forms of testing, it may not be as accurate, and some doctors offices are not equipped to provide it.

    Home Testing for Gonorrhea

    There has been a movement towards home-testing, and self-sampling for gonorrhea and chlamydia detection. The quality of these tests varies, but it is possible to do high-quality testing on self-collected samples.

    As such, these tests are a good option for people who would not otherwise seek out regular screening or testing. It is just important for people to make certain that the tests are being run by a reputable lab before choosing to use these services. This can be particularly an issue with tests ordered online, as described here.

    Sources:

    Lunny C, Taylor D, Hoang L, Wong T, Gilbert M, Lester R, Krajden M, Ogilvie G. Self-Collected versus Clinician-Collected Sampling for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Screening: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS One. 2015 Jul 13;10(7):e0132776. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0132776.

    McRee AL, Esber A, Reiter PL. Acceptability of home-based chlamydia and gonorrhea testing among a national sample of sexual minority young adults. Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2015 Mar;47(1):3-10. doi: 10.1363/47e2715.

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