Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
The symptoms of gonorrhea vary depending on the location of the infection. Gonorrhea can infect the genitals, anus, or throat, depending on how it was transmitted (genital, anal, or oral sex). The symptoms usually appear within 7 days of the infection being contracted.
Some people have mild or no symptoms and can therefore pass the bacteria to others unknowingly, whereas other people experience severe symptoms.
The following symptoms can be observed in women:
- Itching or burning sensation when urinating
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Pain in the lower abdomen and during sex
- Irregular vaginal bleeding (e.g., between periods)
The following symptoms can be observed in men:
- Pain or discomfort when urinating
- White or yellow discharge from the penis
- Painful swelling in one or both testicles
An infection in the anus can cause the following symptoms:
- Constipation or painful bowel movements
An infection in the throat usually manifests as a sore throat.
Causes and triggers
Gonorrhea can be transmitted through oral, genital, or anal sex with an infected partner. Penetration or ejaculation do not have to occur for the infection to be transmitted.
In addition, you can transmit the infection even if you do not have symptoms. It is also possible for a pregnant woman who has gonorrhea to transmit the infection to her child during childbirth.
If not treated quickly, the infection can lead to infertility in both men and women. In addition, the bacteria can spread outside the initial site of infection and cause complications elsewhere, especially in the skin and joints.
Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. It's very important to take the medicine as directed for it to be effective. Your sexual partners will also require treatment.
It is recommended that you wait until you have no more symptoms and you have completed the treatment (or 7 days if your treatment is a single dose) before having sex again.
Many people who have gonorrhea also have chlamydia. The infections are treated simultaneously with antibiotics.
The best way to prevent gonorrhea and other STIs is to use a condom and a dental dam (square of latex or other material used for oral sex) during intercourse.
When should I see a health care professional?
If you experience any of the symptoms of gonorrhea or another STI, consult a health care professional immediately. If you have been treated for gonorrhea and the symptoms return quickly or do not disappear completely, you should once again consult a health care professional.
Make sure you are regularly screened for gonorrhea and other STIs if any of the following applies:
- You have multiple sexual partners
- You have unprotected sex