• Gonorrhea

    Definition

    Gonorrhea is type of sexually transmitted infection (STI).

    Causes

    Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It is passed on during vaginal, oral, or anal sexual intercourse.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of gonorrhea include:
    • Multiple sex partners
    • Being sexually active and less than 25 years old
    • Having sex without a condom
    • History of having a STI

    Symptoms

    Many people that are infected will have symptoms. Symptoms may appear 1-14 days after contact with an infected partner. In some cases, symptoms do not occur for up to a month.
    People with gonorrhea may experience some, all, or none of the following:

    In Men

    • Discharge from the penis
    • Burning sensation while urinating
    • Tender or swollen testicles

    In Women

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

    In Men and Women with Rectal Infections

    • Anal itching
    • Soreness
    • Bleeding
    • Painful bowel movements

    Gonorrhea Complications

    If gonorrhea is not treated, it can cause problems such as:
    In Men
    • Testicles—epididymitis, a painful condition of the testicles that may lead to infertility
    • Prostate—prostatitis, swelling and infection in the prostate
    • Urethra—scarring on the inside of the tube that allows urine to pass out of the body can make it difficult to urinate
    In Women
    • Reproductive organs—due to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a serious infection that can affect fertility
    • Infection in a newborn infant if you are infected during pregnancy
    Female Reproductive System Organs
    Female Reproductive Organs
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
    In Both Men and Women
    Untreated gonorrhea can cause severe infections in:
    • Joints
    • Brain
    • Eyes
    • Heart
    If you are diagnosed with gonorrhea, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
    If you are diagnosed with gonorrhea, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

    Diagnosis

    Two tests are commonly used to diagnose gonorrhea:
    • Nucleic acid probe test—Discharge or urine is tested for specific acids. These specific acids indicate 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.
    Your doctor will likely also test you for the presence of other STIs including chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV.

    Treatment

    Your doctor will prescribe 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.

    Prevention

    The most effective way to prevent an STI is to abstain from sex. Other preventive measures include:
    • Use condoms during sexual activity.
    • Have sex with only one partner who has sex only with you.
    • Have regular checkups for STIs.
    Some other barrier methods of contraception may provide some protection. Talk to your doctor about your options.

    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

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    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 August 13, 2012. Accessed October 7, 2012.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/. Accessed October 7, 2012.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.

    Gonococcal cervicitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated September 7, 2012. Accessed October 7, 2012.

    Gonococcal urethritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated September 7, 2012. Accessed October 7, 2012.

    Gonococcal infections. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2000.

    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 January 7, 2011. Accessed October 7, 2012.

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