STI Info: Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae that can infect both men and women. This bacterium can live in multiple areas of the body like: the cervix (opening of the womb), the uterus (womb), the fallopian tube (egg canals), the urethra (urine canal), the mouth, the throat, the anus, and eyes.
The majority of people who have Gonorrhea do not show any symptoms. Women who have symptoms tend to mistake them for a bladder infection due to their non specific nature. Women are at risk for developing serious complications from the infection, even if symptoms are not shown.
Female symptoms include:
- Painful or burning with urination
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding between periods
Male symptoms include:
- Burning with urination
- White, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
- Painful or swollen testicles (less common)
Rectal infections either cause no symptoms or very few in both men and women.
- Itching of the anus
- Painful bowel movements
According to the Center for Disease Control, gonorrhea is a very common infectious disease and has an estimated yearly infection rate of more than 820,000 persons in the U.S. Only about half of these infections are reported and in 2013, 333,004 cases of gonorrhea were reported to CDC.
Gonorrhea can be spread through any sexual contact with an infected penis, mouth, anus, or vagina. Bodily fluids are not necessary to contract an infection. For example, ejaculation is not required to transfer the bacteria to a partner. Mothers can also infect their unborn child during childbirth.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Gonorrhea is diagnosed from a urine test or a sample taken from the cervix, urethra, rectum, or
throat. Healthcare professionals analyze the specimens for bacteria to determine whether an
individual has the bacterial infection.
Some cases of Gonorrhea can be treated through antibiotics, but there are an increasing number of drug resistant strains of Gonorrhea. Using two drugs to treat gonorrhea is now recommended by the CDC. It is important to note, if you are being treated for gonorrhea your partner should also be tested and treated to avoid re-infection. All partners within the past 60 days before onset of symptoms (if any) should be treated for gonorrhea. A person with gonorrhea and their partners should avoid any sexual contact until treatment is completed and symptoms are no longer present.
Prevention and Risk Reduction
The only 100% effective way to prevent sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea is to abstain from sexual activity where there is a transmission of bodily fluids such as oral, anal, and vaginal sex. If you choose to be sexually active, being in a monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected significantly reduces your risk of infection. In addition, reducing your number of sexual partners can help to reduce your risk. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, may reduce the risk of a Gonorrheal infection.