What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is an infection caused by bacteria which commonly affects the urethra, cervix, rectum and throat. More rarely it can infect the blood, skin, joints and eyes. Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is spread through oral, anal or vaginal sex, or can be passed to a baby during childbirth. However, many people do not know they have gonorrhea, because although they are infected, they do not have any symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 50% of those with gonorrhea don't have any symptoms. Many people who have gonorrhea also have Chlamydia. Gonorrhea is also known as the clap.

Catching Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can be obtained through sexual contact: oral, anal or vaginal sex (including dildos, sex toys and fingers). It is spread from infectious fluids. Women can also pass Gonorrhea to their babies during childbirth, causing the baby to have conjunctivitis (eye infection) or pneumonia. Sometimes it only takes close physical contact to spread; yet, Gonorrhea is not passed through things like shaking hands or toilet seats.

Gonorrhea Symptoms

The symptoms of gonorrhea are similar to the symptoms of chlamydia. Symptoms usually appear 1 to 30days after exposure, but, they may not appear at all, especially in women. In both men and women, symptoms may come and go, but just because they go away, doesn't mean the infection is gone.

Gonorrhea infections of the mouth and throat are usually without symptoms. If present, symptoms include soreness and redness in the mouth or throat. Gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints. This condition can be life threatening. Health care providers will often treat Chlamydia and gonorrhea at the same time.

Some men may experience:

  • Burning or pain when you urinate
  • Swelling of the testicles
  • Itching or irritation around the opening of the penis
  • A yellowish discharge from the tip of the penis

Some women may experience:

  • An unusual discharge from the vagina
  • Burning or pain when urinating
  • Pain in the abdominal area, sometimes with fever or nausea
  • Bleeding in between periods
  • Getting tested

You can find out if you have gonorrhea by a simple lab test. Tests are done with either a urine sample or a sample obtained from a woman's cervix or a man's urethra, using a cotton swab.

Gonorrhea Treatment

Gonorrhea can be treated, but it is important to get treated before there are any long-term problems. More than 50% of the time those with gonorrhea have Chlamydia at the same time, so they are treated for both infections. All sex partners should be evaluated, tested, and treated.

Persons with gonorrhea should abstain from sexual intercourse until they and their sex partners have completed treatment, otherwise re-infection is possible. Infections detected after treatment with one of the recommended treatments more commonly occur because of re-infection rather than treatment failure.

A person can still be contagious up to one week after treatment, and it is recommended to be re-tested for the disease before starting to have any sexual contact.

Gonorrhea Complications

If untreated, gonorrhea infections can progress to serious long term complications for men, women and babies: one of which could include infertility. Like the disease itself, the damage that gonorrhea causes, often go unnoticed. It is recommended that females get tested at least annually for Chlamydia. All pregnant women should have a screening test for gonorrhea.

If you believe you might have gonorrhea, you should see a physician as soon as possible.

If you believe you might have an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) or VD (Venereal Disease), you should be tested and evaluated by a health care provider as soon as possible. An STD Lab Test can help protect you and should be used as a routine screening tool to protect yourself from STD's.


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