Gonorrhea: What it Is and How it Affects Your Body

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that is spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner. If a pregnant individual has gonorrhea, the STD can also be spread to a baby during childbirth.

For most people, gonorrhea will not present any symptoms, but if they do, they are often mild and mistaken for a simple bladder or vaginal infection. Symptoms of gonorrhea include:

  1. Pain or burning sensation during urination
  2. Increased vaginal discharge
  3. Bleeding between periods
  4. A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
  5. Painful or swollen testicles
  6. Anal discharge, itching, soreness, or bleeding
  7. Painful bowel movements

Regardless of the presence of symptoms, untreated gonorrhea can lead to serious, permanent health problems. Women may develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) that can cause blockage of the fallopian tubes by scar tissue, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and long-term pelvic and abdominal pain. Men may experience pain in the tubes attached to the testicles that can lead to infertility. Untreated gonorrhea can also spread to the blood and joints, which can be life-threatening, and it can increase your chances of contracting HIV.


Specific Testing Information for Gonorrhea

Testing for gonorrhea is easy. A urine test is the most common method. If visiting a physician, you may receive a physical exam that includes a pelvic example, fluid sample from the cervix or penis, or throat or anal culture. The lab will then analyze your sample to look for the presence of the bacteria.

Source: Cleveland Clinic, Gonorrhea Diagnosis and Tests

In general, test results are returned within 1 to 3 days from the time the lab receives your sample. If a culture test was administered, results may take longer, but your doctor will discuss what to expect during your testing visit. 

 Source: MyHealth Alberta, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: About These Tests

Gonorrhea can be cured with the right treatment. As with any antibiotic medication, it’s important to take all of the medication provided as directed. Stopping medication too soon or not taking as instructed could result in the infection becoming more resistant to antibiotics, meaning it will be more difficult to treat. 

Some drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea are becoming more prevalent, so if your symptoms continue for more than a few days after completing treatment, contact your doctor right away.

You should refrain from any sexual activity until seven days after medication is completed and symptoms are no longer present. 

Even after treatment, it is still possible to get gonorrhea again, so it’s important to practice safe sex. Those who have been treated for gonorrhea should be retested around three months after treatment was completed to ensure the infection has cleared.

  • Anyone who is sexually active
  • Sexually active women under 25 years old
  • Gay and bisexual men
  • Women 25 years or older who have new or multiple sex partners, or a partner with an STD
  • Those who are pregnant

Source: Gonorrhea – CDC Basic Fact Sheet

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