Gonorrhea is an infection caused by bacteria. It is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD).
It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae . It is passed during vaginal, oral, or anal sexual intercourse.
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
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:
- Discharge from the penis
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Tender or swollen testicles
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Abdominal pain
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
Men and Women
- Anal itching
- Painful bowel movements
- Eye infections
- Blood infections
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.
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:
- Testicles—due to ]]>epididymitis]]> , a painful condition of the testicles that may lead to infertility
- Urethra—due to scarring on the inside of the urethra can make it difficult to urinate
- Reproductive organs—due to ]]>pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)]]> a serious infection that can affect fertility
Female Reproductive System Organs
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.
National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention
Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID)
Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Unit
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
Gonococcal infections. In : Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 17th ed. McGraw Hill; 2000.
Gonorrhea. Medline Plus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/gonorrhea.html .
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov .
Last reviewed February 2009 by ]]>Igor Puzanov, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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