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Gonorrhea

This webpage is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Gonorrhea is a common STI caused by a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It is spread from person to person through unprotected oral, anal and/or vaginal sex or through sharing of sex toys.

Signs & Symptoms

It can take 2 - 7 days or longer after exposure for gonorrhea symptoms to appear. Many people who are infected with gonorrhea don't have any symptoms, or their symptoms are so mild they can be mistaken for something else.

Women might experience:

  • Increased vaginal discharge.
  • Vaginal itching.
  • Pain or burning when urinating.
  • Pain or bleeding during sexual intercourse.
  • Bleeding after intercourse.
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods.
  • Pain in the lower abdomen.

Men might experience:

  • Discharge from the penis.
  • Burning and/or itching around the tip of the penis.
  • More frequent urination.
  • Pain or burning when urinating.
  • Painful or swollen testicles.

Diagnoses & Treatment

Diagnosing Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can be diagnosed by taking a swab from a female's cervix or the tip of a male's penis, from the throat (for oral sex) or from the anus (for anal sex). Testing for these infections can also be done using a special urine test. Do not urinate (pee) for 1 hour before giving a urine sample.

Treatment

Some types of gonorrhea are more difficult to treat than others. The best treatment for gonorrhea is given as an injection (needle) AND pills. If you do not take the injection, the gonorrhea may not be completely gone. You may still be able to spread the infection to your sex partners.

Do not have sexual (oral, vaginal, anal) contact, even with a condom, during treatment and for at least 7 days after you have finished taking the medication(s).

Your partner(s) must also be tested and treated at the same time so you don't re-infect one another.

Left untreated, gonorrhea:

  • Can increase your chances HIV transmission if you are engaging in unprotected sexual activity with someone living with HIV - (the immune system cells (CD4/T-cells) that are working to fight the gonorrhea infection are the very cells that HIV target. The immune system cells are present at the site of a gonorrhea infection - the genital area - making someone more vulnerable to HIV).
  • Might spread to other parts of your body, causing problems such as arthritis.
  • Can cause infertility in men by spreading to the testicles and prostrate gland.
  • Can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women by spreading to the fallopian tubes and ovaries. PID can cause tubal pregnancies or infertility.
  • Can be passed on to a baby during delivery and cause eye and lung infections.

Follow Up and Prevention

Follow Up

It’s important to know that your infection is cured.  Your health-care provider will tell you when to return for a follow-up test.  Depending on which tests you need, you’ll be asked to return 1-6 weeks after finishing the medication. If you’re menstruating, you shouldn’t be retested until your period ends.

Prevention

Both males and females can reduce the risk of contracting gonorrhea by:

  • Not having sex.
  • Being tested together with all new partners prior to sexual activity..
  • Always using condoms.

Pregnant women should be screened and treated if necessary to prevent gonorrhea eye infections in their newborns.

Types of STIs

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