What's The Difference Between Chlamydia And Gonorrhea?

Like many other wonderful things, sex has a not-so-exciting side: sexually transmitted diseases. Popularly known as STDs, these are the painful and uncomfortable risks of getting your freak on. According to MedlinePlus, STDs are contagious, and spread through sexual contact.

STDs are common in the United States, with millions of new infections occurring yearly, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the infections primarily spread through anal, vaginal, and oral sex, in some cases, they can also spread through intimate physical touch, like heavy petting.

The World Health Organization reports an estimated 374 million new global infections yearly with one of the following: syphilis, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and chlamydia. According to the source, over 500 million people worldwide live with genital infections caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV), a large percentage of them being between the ages of 15 and 49.

However, out of all STIs, the Cleveland Clinic reports that chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the most common. Although they're often associated with each other, they're two entirely different infections.

Chlamydia vs. gonorrhea — what's the difference?

Although chlamydia and gonorrhea are both sexually transmitted infections caused by bacteria, they are caused by different bacterial organisms. According to the Cleveland Clinic, chlamydia is caused by a bacteria known as chlamydia trachomatis (C. trachomatis). The infection can be contracted in various ways, including sharing contaminated sex toys. The infection can also spread through oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse, per the clinic. Beyond sex, chlamydia can spread from mother to child during childbirth, as explained by WebMD.

Gonorrhea, on the other hand, is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which typically spreads during sexual intercourse. As WebMD states, a man doesn't have to ejaculate to pass it on to his sexual partner. According to Healthline, it is possible that gonorrhea might also be spread orally (through kissing with the tongue), though more research is needed to confirm this. Gonorrhea is most common among teenagers and younger adults, typically between the ages of 15 and 24. 

How do the symptoms and treatment compare?

According to the CDC, many gonorrhea and chlamydia cases are asymptomatic. As explained by Medical New Today, both gonorrhea and chlamydia have similar symptoms, which differ slightly between men and women.

Men sometimes experience discharge from their penis or a burning sensation when urinating. They can also experience pain or swelling in the testicles, although this is less common. Both men and women can also experience bleeding, discharge, and soreness in their rectal area.

The Cleveland Clinic likens the symptoms of chlamydia in women to those of urinary tract infection. Some symptoms common to both gonorrhea and chlamydia include unusual discharge from the vagina (sometimes with an unpleasant smell, in the case of chlamydia), bleeding between periods, pain in the belly, and a burning sensation when urinating. Chlamydia is more likely to cause itching or burning in and around the vagina. When chlamydia or gonorrhea is experienced in the throat, the Cleveland Clinic reports symptoms similar to a sore throat.

Even asymptomatic infections can lead to serious health problems, but the good news is that the infections can be treated with antibiotics. According to Healthline, two common antibiotics used for chlamydia include azithromycin and doxycycline.

Healthline adds that in addition to doxycycline, the antibiotic called ceftriaxone is recommended for treating gonorrhoea. It's usually administered as a one-time intramuscular injection typically given in the buttocks. Avoid sexual activity until your symptoms are gone and it has been at least a week since you finished all of your medication.