What is Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is an infection caused by a sexually transmitted bacterium that infects both men and women. Gonorrhea most frequently affects the urethra, rectum, or throat. In females, gonorrhea could also infect the cervix.
Gonorrhea is most frequently spread during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. But babies of infected mothers could be infected during childbirth. In babies, gonorrhea most frequently affects the eyes.
Abstaining from sex, using a condom if you have sex, and being in a mutually monogamous relationship are the best ways to avoid sexually transmitted infections.
In many instances, gonorrhea infection causes no symptoms. Symptoms, however, could affect many sites in your body, but commonly appear in the genital tract.
Gonorrhea affecting the genital tract
Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea infection in men are:
- Painful urination
- Pus-like discharge through the tip of the penis
- Pain or swelling in one testicle
Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea infection in women are:
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Painful urination
- Vaginal bleeding between periods, like after vaginal intercourse
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
Gonorrhea at other sites in the body
Gonorrhea could also affect these parts of the body:
- Rectum – Signs, and symptoms include anal itching, pus-like discharge through the rectum, spots of bright red blood on toilet tissue, and having to strain during bowel movements.
- Eyes - Gonorrhea that affects your eyes could cause eye pain, sensitivity to light, and pus-like discharge from one or both eyes.
- Throat – Signs, and symptoms of a throat infection may involve a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
- Joints - If one or more joints become infected by bacteria (septic arthritis), the affected joints may be warm, red, swollen, and extremely painful, especially during movement.
When should you see your doctor?
Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any troubling signs or symptoms, like a burning sensation when you urinate or a pus-like discharge from your penis, vagina, or rectum.
Also, schedule an appointment with your doctor if your partner has been diagnosed with gonorrhea. You might not experience signs or symptoms that prompt you to seek medical attention. But without treatment, you could reinfect your partner even after he or she has been treated for gonorrhea.
Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The gonorrhea bacteria are most frequently passed from one person to another during sexual contact, including oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse.
Sexually active women under the age of 25 and men who have sex with men are at increased risk of getting gonorrhea.
Other factors that could increase your risk are:
- Having a new sex partner
- Having a sex partner that has other partners
- Having more than one sex partner
- Having had gonorrhea or another sexually transmitted infection
Untreated gonorrhea could lead to major complications, such as:
- Infertility in women - Gonorrhea could spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID could result in scarring of the tubes, a greater risk of pregnancy complications, and infertility. PID needs immediate treatment.
- Infertility in men - Gonorrhea could cause a small, coiled tube in the rear portion of the testicles where the sperm ducts are located (epididymis) to become inflamed (epididymitis). Untreated epididymitis could lead to infertility.
- Infection that spreads to the joints and other areas of your body - The bacterium that causes gonorrhea could spread through the bloodstream and infect other parts of your body, including your joints. Fever, rash, skin sores, joint pain, swelling, and stiffness are potential results.
- Increased risk of HIV/AIDS - Having gonorrhea makes you more vulnerable to infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that leads to AIDS. People who have both gonorrhea and HIV are able to pass both diseases more easily to their partners.
- Complications in babies - Babies who contract gonorrhea from their mothers during birth could develop blindness, sores on the scalp, and infections.
To lower your gonorrhea risk:
- Use a condom if you have sex - Abstaining from sex is the best way to prevent gonorrhea. But if you choose to have sex, use a condom during any kind of sexual contact, including anal sex, oral sex, or vaginal sex.
- Limit your number of sex partners - Being in a monogamous relationship in which neither partner has sex with anyone else could lower your risk.
- Be sure you and your partner are tested for sexually transmitted infections - Before you have sex, get tested, and share your results with one another.
- Do not have sex with someone who appears to have a sexually transmitted infection - If your partner has signs or symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection, like burning during urination or a genital rash or sore, do not have sexual intercourse with that person.
- Consider regular gonorrhea screening - Annual screening is recommended for sexually active women under the age of 25 and for older women at increased risk of infection. This involves women who have a new sex partner, more than one sex partner, a sex partner with other partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection.
Routine screening is also recommended for men who have sex with men, as well as their partners.
To avoid getting gonorrhea again, do not have sex until after you and your sex partner have completed treatment and after symptoms are gone.
To determine whether you have gonorrhea, your doctor will evaluate a sample of cells. Samples could be collected by:
- Urine test - This could help identify bacteria in your urethra.
- A swab of the affected area - A swab of your throat, urethra, vagina, or rectum can collect bacteria that can be identified in a laboratory.
For females, home test kits are available for gonorrhea. They include vaginal swabs for self-testing that are sent to a specified laboratory for testing. You could choose to be notified by email or text message when your results are ready. You could view your results online or receive them by calling a toll-free hotline.
Testing for other sexually transmitted infections
Your doctor might recommend tests for other sexually transmitted infections. Gonorrhea increases your risk of these infections, especially chlamydia, which often accompanies gonorrhea.
Testing for HIV also is suggested for anyone diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. Depending on your risk factors, tests for additional sexually transmitted infections can be beneficial as well.
Gonorrhea treatment in adults
Adults with gonorrhea get treated with antibiotics. Because of the emerging strains of drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that uncomplicated gonorrhea be treated with the antibiotic ceftriaxone — given as an injection — with oral azithromycin (Zithromax).
If you are allergic to cephalosporin antibiotics, like ceftriaxone, you might be given oral gemifloxacin (Factive) or injectable gentamicin and oral azithromycin.
Gonorrhea treatment for partners
Your partner also should go through testing and treatment for gonorrhea, even though he or she has no signs or symptoms. Your partner is given the same treatment as you. Even if you have been treated for gonorrhea, a partner who is not treated can pass it to you again.
Gonorrhea treatment for babies
Babies born to mothers with gonorrhea who develop the infection could be treated with antibiotics.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from gonorrhea, our expert providers at Vegas Health will take care of your health and help you recover. Call (702)-551-5212 to book an appointment with our specialists.