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Sexually Transmitted Diseases Guide

Facts About Gonorrhea


Updated May 13, 2014

Another of the four most common sexually transmitted diseases is gonorrhea. But like the others, a little bit of protection can prevent gonorrhea altogether. And like other STDs, the presence of any STD including gonorrhea can increase the risk of HIV infection.

Facts About Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a common adult disease, though a significant proportion of those with infection (up to 80 percent among women and 10 percent among men) are asymptomatic, meaning they do not have symptoms. Therefore they are neither aware of the need for treatment nor of the risk of transmitting the disease to others. It's this lack of awareness that contributes to the number of gonorrhea cases each year.

How Does Gonorrhea Infection Occur

Gonorrhea is an STD caused by the bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This bacteria loves to grow in warm moist areas including the vagina, anus, urinary tract, mouth, throat and eyes. Therefore, any unprotected sexual contact with these areas has the potential to cause infection. Infection can occur during unprotected anal, vaginal or oral sex. Ejaculation of semen is not required for infection to occur. Also, gonorrhea can be spread from an infected mother to her baby during delivery.

What Are the Symptoms of Gonorrhea?

Many men have no symptoms at all. If they do have symptoms they usually appear within a week of infection and include:

  • burning with urination
  • a white, green, or yellow discharge from the penis
  • painful or swollen testicles

Women frequently have only minor symptoms or have no symptoms at all. Because of this, detection of infection depends mainly on vaginal culture. If women have symptoms they include:

  • pain or burning with urination
  • vaginal discharge
  • vaginal bleeding between periods

Both Men and Women
Both men and women can get a rectal gonorrhea infection. Symptoms include:

  • rectal discharge
  • anal itching or pain
  • anal bleeding
  • painful bowel movements

A Gonorrhea infection in the throat rarely causes symptoms but if it does it's usually a sore throat.

How is Gonorrhea Treated?

There are several antibiotics that are successful in treating gonorrhea. However, gonorrhea strains that are resistant to antibiotics are becoming more common and make it much more difficult to treat the STD. Often, a person with gonorrhea can be infected with another STD known as chlamydia. If the person has both infections, both need to be treated so the person will take antibiotics to treat both.

Important Warning!
If gonorrhea is not completely treated it can cause other serious and permanent illnesses. These other illnesses include:

  • infection of the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes (pelvic inflammatory disease) in women
  • increase the risk of ectopic pregnancies
  • testicular infections (epididymitis)
  • blood and joint infections

Preventing Gonorrhea

Like any STD, using latex condoms can decrease the risk of getting infected with gonorrhea. While a person is being treated for gonorrhea, they must avoid sexual contact.

Important Information
When a person is diagnosed with gonorrhea, they must inform their sexual partners, who should also be tested and treated gonorrhea.

Page 3 - A Guide to Chlamydia

Centers for Disease Control; "Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet"; 1 Apr 2006.

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