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Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted from an infected partner during sex. This can happen during oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
Gonorrhea is most common among sexually active young adults. Other factors that increase your chances of getting gonorrhea include:
- Multiple sex partners
- Having sex without a condom
- A history of STDs
Most people who have gonorrhea do not have symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may appear 1-14 days after 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 the 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
- 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 the mother is infected during pregnancy.
|Female Reproductive System Organs|
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Untreated gonorrhea can cause severe infections in:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is based on tests.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
- Urine tests
- Tests of genital fluid discharge
- Tests of oral fluids using a swab
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 until you and your partners have completed treatment and symptoms are gone.
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 a woman under the age of 25. Sexually active young men should consider screening, although there is no specific guideline.
- Have check-ups often if you have other risk factors for getting STDs.
- Have a monogamous relationship. Monogamous means only 1 sexual partner.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/arg/default.htm. Updated October 21, 2015. Accessed June 7, 2016.
Gonococcal cervicitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113822/Gonococcal-cervicitis. Updated February 15, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Gonococcal urethritis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115615/Gonococcal-urethritis. Updated April 8, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/. Updated December 9, 2015. Accessed June 7, 2016.
Gonorrhea—CDC fact sheet. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/gonorrhea/pages/default.aspx. Updated July 28, 2015. Accessed June 7, 2016.
Workowski KA, Berman S, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.
3/17/2015 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014 Dec 16;161(12):902-10.
- Reviewer: Marcie Sidman, MD
- Review Date: 06/2016
- Update Date: 05/28/2015