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What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection that can affect both men and women. Gonorrhea is caused by bacteria known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhea can be spread from one person to another during oral, vaginal/penile, or anal sex.

Your risk of getting gonorrhea is greater if you have a new sexual partner, more than one sexual partner, or if you have other sexually transmitted infections.

Symptoms of Gonorrhea:

Symptoms of gonorrhea depend on where the infection is and whether you are male or female. However, some people have no symptoms at all. This means that gonorrhea can spread from person to person before it is diagnosed.

Symptoms of Gonorrhea in Women include:

  • Vaginal itching or abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Anal itching or discharge
  • Pain with bowel movements

Symptoms of Gonorrhea in Men include:

  • Pain with urination
  • A milky discharge from the penis
  • Pain and swelling in one testicle

Infection of the rectum can develop among men who have sex with men. Symptoms include a rectal discharge, constipation, and pain.

Complications caused by Gonorrhea:

If untreated, gonorrhea can lead to serious complications in both men and women, including:

  • Joint infections and arthritis.
  • Women can develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) if gonorrhea spreads from the cervix to the uterus and fallopian tubes. PID can scar the fallopian tubes and lead to infertility and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (when a pregnancy develops in the fallopian tube
  • People with gonorrhea are at higher risk of becoming infected with HIV
  • Men with untreated gonorrhea can develop epididymitis, which can lead to infertility.

Diagnosis of Gonorrhea:

Testing for gonorrhea is usually done in a doctor’s office or clinic with a sample of urine or with a swab of the cervix (in women) or urethra (in men). Testing for oral or rectal gonorrhea can also be performed with a swab. Some public clinics can test for gonorrhea from a swab of the urethra in men and provide immediate results. Other clinics may provide results within two to three days, depending on the type of test performed.

Other STIs

If you or your sexual partner is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, like gonorrhea, you should have testing for other infections, including HIV, chlamydia, hepatitis B, trichomoniasis, and syphilis.

Treatment of Gonorrhea:

Treatment of gonorrhea is the same for women and men. Most experts recommend a one-time antibiotic treatment, which includes a shot and pill(s). You should take the pills for the entire duration that they are prescribed.

Sexual Partner Treatment

Treatment is important for you and anyone you have had sex with recently. Your doctor or nurse might ask you to tell your sexual partner(s) to be tested and treated. In some cases, your doctor or nurse will give you a prescription for both you and your partner.

Prevention of Gonorrhea:

There are several things you can do to help prevent getting gonorrhea:

  • Men should use a latex condom (or vinyl for those with latex allergy) every time they have sex
  • Do not have sex if you or your sexual partner has abnormal discharge, burning with urination, or a genital rash or sore
  • Discuss testing for sexually transmitted infections with your doctor or nurse. If you are in a long-term relationship and neither of you has sex with anyone else, you have a lower risk of sexually transmitted infections.
  • See your doctor or nurse if you have any symptoms of gonorrhea or another infection