Gonorrhea is a curable infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoea. In 2011 570,000 cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the actual number of gonorrhea cases in the U.S. each year is thought to be closer to 820,000. It is transmitted during vaginal, anal, and oral sex (performing or receiving). Many men infected with gonorrhea have symptoms, while most women do not. Even when women do have symptoms, they can be mistaken for a bladder infection or other vaginal infection.
Since symptoms may not be present, the only way for a person who has been at risk for gonorrhea to tell whether they're infected is to be tested. Gonorrhea can be diagnosed through a urine test or by taking a specimen from the infected area. If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause complications such as PID and infertility.
Using latex condoms from the very beginning of sexual contact until there is no longer skin contact reduces the risk of transmission of gonorrhea.
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), also known as "the clap." It is a curable infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoea. The bacteria targets the cells of the mucous membranes including:
Many men exhibit symptoms within two days to five days after exposure, with a possible range of one to 30 days. Although most women infected will remain asymptomatic (without symptoms), women who develop symptoms will do so within 10 days of infection.
Men may be asymptomatic (without symptoms) but might experience:
Women are usually asymptomatic (without symptoms) but might experience:
Both men and women might have rectal or anal infection. Symptoms are usually not present in about 90% of cases. When present, symptoms include anal or rectal itching, discharge, and pain during defecation.
Gonorrhea infections of the mouth and throat are usually without symptoms. If present, symptoms include soreness and redness in the mouth or throat. A culture test is used to determine if gonorrhea is causing these symptoms.
If gonorrhea infects the eye, men and women might experience conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyelid lining). Symptoms of conjunctivitis include redness, itching, and discharge from the eye.
The most common symptoms in newborns include conjunctivitis and pneumonia, which usually develop 5 to 12 days after birth.
There are several different testing options for gonorrhea such as urine or swab tests. It may be helpful to speak to your health care provider about what testing options they have available.
People infected with gonorrhea are often also infected with chlamydia; therefore, in patients with gonorrhea treatment is often prescribed for chlamydia as well, since the cost of the treatment is less than the cost of testing for chlamydia. According to the 2002 CDC STD Treatment Guidelines, health care providers do not need to consider re-testing patients after treatment unless the patient still has symptoms or if reinfection is suspected.
There are antibiotic treatments that are effective in treating gonorrhea. Some strains of gonorrhea have been found to be resistant to certain drugs (known as antimicrobial resistance), so the recommended treatment for most cases involves two antibiotics: one delivered as an injection and the other as an oral medication (usually just a single pill).
Patients with gonorrhea should also be treated for chlamydia (unless testing has ruled out chlamydia infection).
Here are some important points about treatment:
If untreated, gonorrhea can cause complications in men, women and infants. Untreated gonorrhea infections in men may lead to:
Untreated gonorrhea infections in women may lead to:
About 1% of men or women with gonorrhea may develop Disseminated Gonococcal Infection (DGI), which is sometimes called gonococcal arthritis. DGI occurs when gonorrhea infection spreads to sites other than genitals, such as the blood, skin, heart, or joints.
Symptoms of DGI include fever, multiple skin lesions, painful swelling of joints (arthritis), infection of the inner lining of the heart, and inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Symptoms of DGI in infants include arthritis, meningitis and sepsis, a bacterial infection of the blood
DGI can be successfully treated using antibiotic regimens similar to those recommended for treating uncomplicated gonorrhea.
Gonorrhea can be passed from mother to newborn as the baby passes through the infected birth canal. Complications in infants include: blindness, from untreated eye infections.
Telling a partner can be hard, but keep in mind that most people with an STD don't know they have it. It's important that you talk to your partner as soon as possible so she or he can get treatment. It is possible to pass gonorrhea back and forth, so if you get treated and your partner doesn't, you may get infected again.