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Gonorrhea

Definition

Gonorrhea is type of sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Treatment includes antibiotics, partner notification, and lifestyle changes.

Causes    TOP

Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted from an infected partner during sex. This can happen during oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

Risk Factors    TOP

Gonorrhea is most common among sexually young adults. Other factors that increase your chances of getting gonorrhea include:

  • Being sexually active
  • Multiple sex partners
  • Having sex without a condom
  • History of STDs

Symptoms    TOP

Most people who have gonorrhea do not have symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may appear 1-14 days of exposure. In some cases, symptoms do not occur for up to a month.

Symptoms in men may include:

  • Discharge from the penis
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Itching sensation in urethra

Symptoms in women may include:

  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding

Symptoms in men and women with rectal infections may include:

  • Anal itching
  • Soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Painful bowel movements

Gonorrhea can also cause serious health complications.

Complications in men include:

  • Epididymitis —A painful swelling and inflammation of the testicles, which may lead to infertility.
  • Urethritis —The inside of the urethra may become inflamed, which causes burning when passing urine. If scarring occurs, it may cause difficulty with passing urine, or block urine flow completely.
  • Prostatitis —An inflammation of the prostate gland. Symptoms include pain in and around the groin and pelvis, or discomfort when urinating. It may also create flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, body aches, or fatigue.

Complications in women include:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)—A serious infection that can lead to infertility, even in women who never have symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include pelvic pain and pain with intercourse. PID causes scar tissue, or may cause an abscess to form, in the fallopian tubes.
  • Infection in a newborn infant if you are infected during pregnancy.

Female Reproductive System Organs

Female Reproductive Organs
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Untreated gonorrhea can cause severe infections in:

  • Joints
  • Brain
  • Eyes
  • Heart

Diagnosis    TOP

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is based on tests.

Tests may include:

  • Nucleic acid test—Discharge or urine is tested for genetic material found in gonorrhea.
  • Laboratory culture—A smear of the discharge is taken and sent to a lab. After two days, the culture is checked for growth of the bacteria.
  • Other STD tests, such as chlamydia, syphilis, or HIV.

Treatment    TOP

Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. Some strains of gonorrhea have developed resistance to certain antibiotics. You and your doctor will work together to find an antibiotic that is effective.

It is important to take all medication as prescribed. Also, all of your sexual partners should be tested and treated. Do not have sex again until you and your partners have completed treatment and no one has symptoms.

If you are diagnosed with gonorrhea, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

Prevention    TOP

To reduce your chances of getting gonorrhea, take these steps:

  • Always use a latex condom during sexual activity.
  • Have routine check-ups for STDs if you are under the age of 25.
  • Have check-ups often if you have other risk factors for getting STDs.
  • Have a monogamous relationship. Monogamous means only one sexual partner.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
http://www.niaid.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
http://www.sieccan.org

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/arg/default.htm . Updated May 8, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2013.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/ . Updated May 8, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2013.
Gonococcal cervicitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated January 20, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2013.
Gonococcal urethritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated April 16, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2013.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Gonorrhea. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/gonorrhea/pages/default.aspx . Updated December 13, 2012. Accessed May 16, 2013.
Workowski KA, Berman S, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR . 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.
Last reviewed May 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013