What Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a curable sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is spread through sexual intercourse, whether it is vaginal, oral or anal. Gonorrhea can also be passed to a newborn during delivery.

Gonorrhea is a leading cause of infertility. The most common site of initial infection in women is the cervix and the urethra. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes resulting in Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID causes scarring of the fallopian tubes, which may lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancy, in which a fertilized egg is implanted outside the uterus, most frequently in the fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancy can be life threatening.

What Are the Symptoms of Gonorrhea?

The symptoms of gonorrhea usually appear two days to three weeks after exposure to the infection. Unfortunately, you can be infected for months and never know it. Sometimes when symptoms do occur, they are mild.

Symptoms for women may include:

  • a vaginal discharge
  • painful, burning sensation with urination
  • lower abdominal pain and fever
  • pain with intercourse

If the symptoms are ignored and the infection goes untreated, the bacteria can spread to the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries causing PID. PID causes scarring that can lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancies.

Symptoms for men may include:

  • painful burning sensation with urination
  • milky white to yellow discharge from the penis
  • redness and swelling around the opening of the penis
  • pain and swelling in the testicles

How Is Gonorrhea Diagnosed?

Gonorrhea is diagnosed from a DNA test using swab specimens from the cervix, rectum, throat or urethra.

How Is Gonorrhea Treated?

Gonorrhea can be cured by antibiotics. It is important to complete all the medication, even if you have no symptoms or your symptoms go away. All partners must be treated at the same time. You should abstain from intercourse until you and your partner have completed the course of medication and both have obtained a negative result from a repeat culture.

How Does Gonorrhea Affect Pregnancy?

Pregnant women with gonorrhea are at increased risk of premature delivery. Untreated gonorrhea can be transmitted to the infant during birth and may cause severe eye infections.