Lisa Savage, MD


Article: Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Syphilis

ACOG logo

Infection with gonorrhea and chlamydia causes two of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Syphilis, another STD, occurs less often, but can be serious if it is not treated. STDs can be passed by vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Gonorrhea and Chlamydia

Both gonorrhea and chlamydia can occur in the mouth, the genitals and the rectum. The infections also can appear in the eyes of a newborn.


Gonorrhea and chlamydia often have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may show up two days to three weeks after infection.


To find out if you have gonorrhea or chlamydia, your doctor may take a sample from your throat, cervix, urethra or another area where there may be an infection.


Gonorrhea and chlamydia can be treated at the same time with antibiotics. It is important to take all of your medicine. Your partner also must be treated.

Health Risks

Both gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause severe problems:

  • * Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and other parts within the pelvis. PID may lead to infertility.
  • * Ectopic pregnancy can result from the scarring of the fallopian tubes caused by PID.


Syphilis occurs in stages. If not treated, syphilis may affect your heart, blood vessels and nervous system.


Syphilis first appears as a painless sore called a chancre. It lasts 10 days to six weeks after contact with the disease.

If not treated, the next stage begins one week to three months later when a rash may appear.

The rash goes away in a few weeks or months, but that does not mean the disease is gone. It is still in your body. This is called the latent period.

How Syphilis Is Spread

Syphilis is spread by contact with a chancre. It also can be spread by touching the rash, warts or infected blood during the second stage of infection.


In the early stages, your doctor can examine discharge from open sores to see if you have syphilis. A blood test also may be done.


Syphilis is treated with antibiotics. If it is caught and treated early, long-term problems can be prevented.

Problems During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant when you have gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis, problems may occur for both you and your baby. The infection can be passed from mother to baby.


Even if you already have had gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis, there are things you can do to keep from getting them again. These safeguards also help protect against other STDs:

  • * Limit your sexual partners.
  • * Know your partner.
  • * Use a condom.
  • * Avoid contact with any sores on the genitals.

Finally …

If you think you may be at risk for gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis, get tested. These diseases will do the least harm if they are caught early.

This excerpt from ACOG's Patient Education Pamphlet is provided for your information. It is not medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for visiting your doctor. If you need medical care, have any questions, or wish to receive the full text of this Patient Education Pamphlet, please contact your obstetrician-gynecologist.

To ensure the information is current and accurate, ACOG titles are reviewed every 18 months.


Copyright © Dr. Lisa Savage, MD. All rights reserved.