Oral Gonorrhea Symptoms

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Is oral sex safe?

Many people, especially young teens, consider oral sex to be "safe" sex. "Safe sex" by many people is defined as having sexual gratification by means that reduces or eliminates the chance of producing a fetus (pregnancy). However, medical professionals include in the meaning of "safe sex," sex practices that prevent or significantly reduce the possibility of getting a disease from a sex partner (for examples, HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhea). Most doctors do not consider oral (and other) sexual practices "safe" unless precautions are taken to prevent or substantially reduce disease transmission between partners, or if the sex partners are uninfected. Consequently, oral sex (any male or female oral contact with a partner's genitalia; most clinicians also include genital/oral contact with any other body orifice such as the anus or rectum in the definition) is not, without precautions, considered inherently "safe sex" because sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) may be transferred by these practices.

What is oral gonorrhea?

Specifically, oral gonorrhea (also termed pharyngeal gonorrhea) is defined as an STD infection of the pharynx with Gram-negative coccal-shaped (round) bacteria named Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Infection is acquired through direct contact with white/yellowish pus-like fluid (also termed discharge or exudates) containing N. gonorrhoeae bacteria from one sex partner. This discharge is caused by N. gonorrhoeae bacterium inflaming the local tissue. It mixes with a person's vaginal fluids, seminal fluids, or mucus membranes near the anus and rectum that come in contact with another person's oral mucus membranes. The exudate may not always be easy to see. The bacterial infection then establishes itself in the pharynx and may be asymptomatic (cause no symptoms), but can cause symptoms of sore throat and discomfort when swallowing food. The affected throat resembles a strep throat with redness and occasionally may have some white spots or whitish/yellow discharge. People who perform fellatio (oral contact with a penis) are more likely to get oral gonorrhea than those who do cunnilingus (oral contact with the vagina, clitoris). Men who have sex with other men are the most likely to develop oral gonorrhea (about 10% to 25%).

Although oral gonorrhea can be cured by the body (ranges from about a week to three months), not all people will be able to self-cure and this could lead to spread of the disease throughout the body (disseminated gonorrhea).

What does oral gonorrhea look like?

Picture of the throat in a person with oral gonorrhea

Picture of a person with oral gonorrhea
(photo courtesy of CDC)

What are the symptoms of oral gohorrhea?

The main symptom of oral gonorrhea is a sore throat but up to 90% of individuals infected may have little or no symptoms.

These symptoms of oral gonorrhea are the same for men or women and usually occur a few days after oral contact (about 7 to 21 days )with a partner's genitals or anal area when the partner is infected with N. gonorrhoeae. People with oral gonorrhea usually do not transmit the disease to others, but it can occur in some instances. Most investigators state that kissing does not transmit the disease as the bacteria apparently do not infect the tongue or mouth. However, it is possible to transmit the disease if the bacteria in the pharynx are transmitted to other objects by direct contact (for examples, fingers, penis, or sex toys) and then the objects touch other body areas such as genitals, anal/rectal areas, or the eyes. This type of oral transfer of bacteria occurs infrequently. In general, symptoms of oral gonorrhea are either mild or not present and are markedly different from vaginal, penile, anal, and eye or disseminated gonorrhea.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/15/2017

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