What is gonorrhea?
Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea
Doctors recommend regular screening to be sure you’re not infected, because not all cases of gonorrhea show symptoms. Even if your case doesn’t come with symptoms, you can still pass the infection along to sexual partners without knowing.
If your gonorrhea infection does display symptoms, they can show up as soon as 2 days to as long as 30 days after infection. Symptoms of gonorrhea in men are easier to spot, although some men notice only mild symptoms, too. Women typically notice such mild symptoms they might mistake the signs of gonorrhea for a vaginal or bladder infection.
In women, symptoms of genital gonorrhea include:
In people of any gender, symptoms of anal gonorrhea include:
Gonorrhea in the throat can cause a sore throat, but usually you won’t feel any symptoms.
If left untreated, gonorrhea can worsen and lead to permanent damage and other health issues.
In women, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disorder (PID). This disorder causes:
Sometimes untreated gonorrhea can spread to the blood and joints, leading to a systemic infection. It’s important to know the signs to watch out for, but regular testing is the best way to be sure you aren’t infected.
Causes of gonorrhea
The only cause of gonorrhea is the bacteria Neseirria gonorrhoeae.
This bacteria spreads through contact with an infected person's genitals, anus, or throat—whichever body part has the infection. It is usually spread through sexual activities. Because of the lack of symptoms, many infected people don’t know they’re spreading it.
Diagnosis for gonorrhea
Doctors say that any sexually active person between the ages of 21 and 25 should get tested at least once a year for gonorrhea. That way, you can spot an asymptomatic case and help to stop the spread of the infection in the community.
If you are over 25, you should get tested whenever you have a new sexual partner, or if you have unprotected sex.
Depending on the location of your infection, doctors may take a urine sample or do a swab of the affected area. Then they’ll test it for traces of the bacteria that causes gonorrhea.
Treatments for gonorrhea
Doctors treat most cases of gonorrhea with antibiotics. The current standard is an injection of ceftriaxone plus an oral dose of azithromycin.
However, some newer strains of gonorrhea are resistant to most of the available antibiotics. There are still treatment options, but researchers must constantly monitor the situation to make sure that strains from around the globe will still respond to available treatments.
Gonorrhea is treatable, but if you don’t know you’re infected, you are contagious until you receive antibiotics. It’s important for both partners to be tested and treated to avoid passing it back and forth or accidentally transmitting it to someone else, too.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet."
Michigan Medicine University of Michigan Health: "Gonorrhea."
Minnesota Department of Health: "Gonorrhea."
National Coalition for Sexual Health: "This is How Often You Need to Get Tested for STDs, Based on Your Relationship Status."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Gonorrhea Treatment and Care."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea Basic Information."
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