The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This bacterium can easily grow and multiply in the areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes in women, and in the urethra in women and men. It can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warns anyone who has any type of sex can catch gonorrhea. KidsHealth.org adds it can also be passed from mother to baby during birth.
Gonorrhea often has no symptoms. CDC says initial symptoms and signs in women include burning and pain when urinating, yellow-green vaginal discharge, or vaginal bleeding between periods. Planned Parenthood says others are abdominal pain, fever, menstrual irregularities, and painful intercourse. Swelling or tenderness of the vulva, increased urinary frequency, and throwing up can also occur.
NIH says symptoms in men include burning and pain when urinating, increased urinary frequency or urgency, discharge from the penis, red or swollen opening of penis, tender or swollen testicles, and sore throat.
Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both sexes according to CDC. In women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can damage the fallopian tubes enough to cause infertility or increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. KidsHealth.org says gonorrhea during pregnancy can cause problems for the newborn, including meningitis and eye infections.
Untreated gonorrhea in men can result in epididymitis. CDC says epididymitis is a painful condition of the ducts attached to the testicles that may lead to infertility.
Gonorrhea is easy to treat with antibiotics. For people with gonorrhea, says KidsHealth.org, all of their sex partners should be tested and treated as well. And it’s important to take the full dose of medication. Planned Parenthood and CDC say the infected person and all sex partners must avoid sex until treatment is completed and all symptoms are gone. They should also be treated simultaneously so not to re-infect each other.