Definition

Gonorrhea is an infection caused by bacteria. It is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Causes

It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae . It is passed during vaginal, oral, or anal sexual intercourse.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of gonorrhea include:

  • Multiple sex partners
  • Age: 15-29
  • Sexual intercourse with a partner who has a history of any STD
  • Having sex without a condom
  • History of having a sexually transmitted disease

Symptoms

Not all people that are infected will have symptoms. Some may have very severe symptoms. If there are symptoms, they may appear 2-10 days after contact with an infected partner. In some cases, they do not occur for up to a month.

People with gonorrhea may experience some, all, or none of the following symptoms:

Men

  • Discharge from the penis
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Tender or swollen testicles

Women

  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding

Men and Women

  • Anal itching
  • Soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Eye infections
  • Blood infections

Diagnosis

Three tests are commonly used to diagnose gonorrhea:

Gram stain—A sample of the discharge from the penis or cervix is taken. It is examined for the presence of bacteria. This test is more accurate for men than women.

Nucleic acid probe test—Discharge or urine is tested for nucleic acids. These acids identify gonorrhea.

Laboratory analysis—A smear of the discharge is taken. It is sent to a lab. After two days, it is checked for growth of the bacteria.

Treatment

If you have gonorrhea, your doctor may prescribe one of the following antibiotics:

It is important to take all of the medication as prescribed. All of your sexual partners should be tested and treated.

If Gonorrhea Is Left Untreated

If gonorrhea is not treated, it can cause problem in:

In Men

  • Testicles—due to epididymitis , a painful condition of the testicles that may lead to infertility
  • Prostate
  • Urethra—due to scarring on the inside of the urethra can make it difficult to urinate

In Women

Female Reproductive System Organs

Female Reproductive Organs
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Prevention

The most effective way to prevent an STD is to abstain from sex. Other preventive measures include:

  • Always use latex condoms during sexual activity
  • Have sex with only one partner (who has sex only with you)
  • Have regular checkups for sexually transmitted diseases

Some other barrier methods of contraception may provide some protection. Talk to your doctor about your options.