How to Tell the Difference Between Oral Gonorrhea Vs. Strep Throat

Sore throats are one of the most common symptoms in almost every viral or bacterial infection. Therefore, knowing the cause of the tickly tingle is super important in getting the correct treatment to cure what's actually going on in your throat. Strep throat or Streptococcus (group A strep for short) is typically a mild infection treated with antibiotics. It isn't common in adults and can mimic certain STDs like Oral Gonorrhea. Typically, patients with OG usually experience a sore throat and swelling of lymph nodes. However, Oral Gonorrhea and strep throat are very different infections.


Oral gonorrhea is a bacterial sexually transmitted disease spread by having oral sex or kissing, and strep throat is a bacterial infection spread by everyday occurrences like talking, coughing, and sneezing. Because the two conditions tend to resemble similar symptoms, it can be quite challenging to spot the difference. The only way to determine the cause of your throat pain is by taking an at-home rapid strep test. If that is negative, your condition may be oral gonorrhea.

What Exactly is Oral Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. Oral gonorrhea (pharyngeal gonorrhea) is when the infection affects the tissues of the throat—instead of the genitals or rectum. While oral gonorrhea and strep throat can both make your throat sore and inflamed, they are very different medical conditions.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is one of the most common STDs, with approximately 820,000 new gonorrhea cases reported in the United States each year. Oral gonorrhea is most commonly transmitted through oral sex. Giving oral sex to a person with infected genitals or receiving oral sex from someone infected with it may transmit the bacteria. What is even more troublesome is that transmission can occur even if no symptoms are present in the person who first had the infection.  

Oral Gonorrhea Symptoms

In most cases, those infected with oral gonorrhea have no noticeable symptoms. However, among people who do experience symptoms, the most common sign is a persistent sore throat. Other possible symptoms include:


  • Swollen, burning, or painful glands in your throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Visible irritation, redness, or lesions in the back of the throat

Strep Throat Symptoms


  • Sudden sore throat pain 
  • Painful swallowing
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
  • Tiny red spots on the area at the back of the roof of the mouth (soft or hard palate)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Nausea or vomiting, especially in younger children
  • Body aches

When to See A Doctor For Oral Gonorrhea

If you have ruled out strep throat and believe you're suffering from symptoms of oral gonorrhea, talk with your doctor so they test you for it and other STDs that may come along with it, like chlamydia. Early detection is key for any potential infection. In most cases, antibiotics can effectively treat a gonorrhea infection. According to new CDC guidelines, the most effective treatment for oral gonorrhea is a combination of the injectable antibiotic ceftriaxone and either azithromycin or doxycycline.


If OG isn't treated promptly, oral gonorrhea may eventually spread to the bloodstream and can cause serious harm to other parts of the body. When gonorrhea spreads in this way, it's referred to as a disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI) or disseminated gonorrhea. Symptoms will then include skin sores, fever, chills, rashes, joint pain, joint swelling, and fatigue.

The Bottom Line on Oral Gonorrhea

The best way to protect yourself against STDs is to schedule regular STD testing appointments. Since STDs like oral gonorrhea can bear a striking resemblance to strep throat, it's easy to confuse one for the other. If you have a sore throat and strep-like symptoms, take a rapid strep test to rule it out. If it comes back negative, talk to your doctor about an STD test.