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Gonorrhea

Jessica Evert, MD, edited by Benjamin McDonald, MD Updated: Jul 5th 2016

Gonorrhea is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria Gonorrhoeae. This STD can affect anyone of any age who is engaged in any type of sexual activity. In addition to being able to grow on the mucous membrane (the tissue lining) of the vagina and penis, Gonorrhea can also live in the mouth, anus, eyes, and other body locations. In rare cases gonorrhea can even affect a person’s joints!

In men, symptoms of Gonorrhea usually appear within two to five days of infection. However, it may take up to one month before symptoms appear. Male symptoms include pain and a burning sensation during urination, pain in the testicles, and discharge or pus from the penis which may be yellow, green, or white in color. For better or worse, an estimated 75% of women do not show symptoms when infected with Gonorrhea. When symptoms are present for women, they include burning with urination, pain during sexual intercourse, abnormal vaginal discharge, and bleeding between periods.

When gonorrhea infects the rectum (the inside of the buttock), symptoms in men and women include soreness, bleeding during bowel movements, and/or anal itching. Gonorrhea can also infect the throat, where it is often asymptomatic (silent).

You should see your doctor if you suspect you may have Gonorrhea. He or she will examine your genitals, and will use a swab to sample discharge around the cervix (inside the vagina, during a pelvic exam) or by inserting a swab into the opening in the penis and testing the fluid retrieved. Fluid samples taken from the penis or vagina are sent to a lab where they are tested for the presence of the Gonorrhea bacteria, as well as other causes of STDs. If you test positive for Gonorrhea your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to treat the condition, along with other conditions that may accompany it, such as Chlamydia. Antibiotic treatments for Gonorrhea can be prescribed in the form of a shot (injection), one dose of medicine, or multiple doses (pills). Often the doctor will require a person to return to the clinic one week after treatment is complete in order to make sure the infection is gone. In some cases, the doctor may not wait for lab results to come back positive, and instead will start treatment immediately.

It is very important that you receive treatment for any Gonorrhea infections you get. Untreated Gonorrhea often leads to serious negative health consequences. For women, untreated gonorrhea can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), perihepatitis (an inflammation of the covering of the liver), and infertility (the inability to become pregnant). In men, untreated gonorrhea infection can lead to epididymitis (swelling and inflammation of part of the male genital tract connecting the testicles to the rest of the body). Untreated epididymitis can lead to male sterility, and the swelling of the testicles and penis. For both men or women, untreated Gonorrhea infections can manifest as joint and skin problems.

Because untreated Gonorrhea can cause such serious health conditions, it is very important that you tell your recent sexual partners about your infection and encourage them to be tested and treated by a doctor or other health care provider.

 

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