HomeHealthCareGonorrhea: Symptoms, Treatment, and Causes

Gonorrhea: Symptoms, Treatment, and Causes

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Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Often, gonorrhea does not cause symptoms, especially in people who are born female. Symptoms vary depending on your reproductive organs. If you suspect you are infected, consult your doctor. Prompt antibiotic treatment can prevent long-term complications.

Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria (N. gonorrhea). It’s also known as “the clap” or “drip.” Gonorrhea spreads through sexual fluids such as vaginal fluid and sperm. Intercourse, anal sex, oral sex, or sharing sex toys with an infected person can all lead to gonorrhea.

Symptoms of gonorrhea

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Symptoms of gonorrhea are not always present. This makes it easy to unknowingly infect your partners. Getting tested on a regular basis, as recommended by your healthcare provider, and using safer sex practices can reduce your risk of infection.

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Gonorrhea symptoms in men

Within 2 to 30 days of exposure, you may develop gonorrhea symptoms. However, symptoms may take several weeks to appear, and you may not experience any symptoms at all.

  • The first symptom you may notice is burning or pain while urinating.
  • Other symptoms that could occur include:
  • Increased urination frequency or urgency
  • A discharge or drip of pus from your penis (this discharge could be yellow, white, beige, or greenish)
  • Swelling and discoloration at the penis opening
  • Testicular pain or swelling
  • Itching and pain in your anus
  • Bleeding or discharge from the rectum
  • Discomfort during bowel movements

Gonorrhea symptoms in women

Many people who have a vagina do not develop gonorrhea symptoms. Symptoms can appear anywhere from a day or two to several weeks after being exposed.

These symptoms are frequently mild. Furthermore, they can appear very similar to symptoms of vaginal yeast or other bacterial infections, making them even more difficult to identify.

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Among the possible symptoms are:

  • Urinary discomfort or burning
  • An increased desire to urinate
  • Heavier cycles or spotting between cycles
  • Discomfort during penetrative vaginal sex
  • You have a sharp pain in your lower abdomen.
  • Itching and pain in your anus
  • Bleeding or discharge from the rectum
  • Bowel movements that are excruciating

How common is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is the second most common bacterial STI, trailing only Chlamydia. Infections with gonorrhea and chlamydia are frequently found together. Every year, approximately 1.14 million new gonorrhea infections occur in the United States. Half of these infections affect people aged 15 to 24.

What exactly causes gonorrhea?

When the bacteria that causes gonorrhea (N. gonorrhoeae) enters your body through sexual fluids such as sperm or vaginal fluid – often through unprotected sex – you become infected. Bacteria can enter the body via the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus. To spread the bacteria, neither you nor your partner must ejaculate (cum). Sharing sex toys that haven’t been washed or covered with a new condom can also spread gonorrhea.

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The cervix is the most common site of infection in people who are assigned female at birth. The cervix is the opening between your vaginal and uterine cavities(womb).

Infection usually begins in the urethra, the tube through which urine exits your body, in men.

What is not a cause of gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is very contagious and rapidly spreads during sexual activity. You are not always at risk for gonorrhea through personal activities or bodily fluid exchanges. You cannot contract gonorrhea from:

  • holding hands, kissing, or hugging
  • sharing meals, beverages, and cutlery.
  • using a restroom after someone else.
  • after a person coughs or sneezes, inhaling droplets.

What is the cause of gonorrhea in men?

If you have sex with an infected person, you can contract gonorrhea. No matter your sex or gender, this is the same. Oral sex, anal intercourse, vaginal touch, and the exchange of sex implements that haven’t been cleaned or covered with a condom are all ways to become infected with the bacteria. You may also be exposed to close genital-to-genital contact without penetration.

How is gonorrhea diagnosed?

You will be questioned by your healthcare practitioner regarding your symptoms and sexual history. The gonorrhea-causing bacteria will then need to be checked in your urine or other bodily fluids.

Your doctor may do the following during your appointment:

  • Perform a pelvic exam while collecting a sample of cervical fluid for analysis.
  • Take a sample of fluid from your penis for testing.
  • Collect fluid for testing by swabbing your throat or rectum.
  • Collect a urine sample for analysis.

Your healthcare professional will go over the best gonorrhea test for you and the kind of fluid sample the test needs with you. You might also get a chlamydia test from your doctor. These infections frequently co-occur.

How does gonorrhea get treated?

Antibiotics are required to treat gonorrhea. Treatment is also necessary for your partner(s). Currently, the CDC advises receiving a shot of Ceftriaxone, with a dosage determined by your weight:

  • Ceftriaxone 500 mg if you weigh less than 150 kilograms (about 330 pounds).
  • If you weigh more than 150 kilos, take 1 gram of ceftriaxone.
  • Your doctor might inject you with 240 mg of Gentamicin and 2 grams of Azithromycin if you have an allergy to Ceftriaxone. You will ingest azithromycin (orally).

To treat a co-infection with chlamydia, your doctor can recommend extra medicine, such as doxycycline. Follow your doctor’s advice regarding when and how to take your medications.

It’s critical to think about what treatments can and cannot do. Your body can get rid of the bacteria with treatment. Treatment cannot do the following:

  • Reverse any harm that the illness may have done to your body prior to therapy.
  • Keep you from contracting gonorrhea in the future.

After treatment, it’s important to protect yourself with preventative measures to avoid reinfection.

What can I do to avoid gonorrhea?

Going without sex is the only method to avoid contracting gonorrhea. A more practical objective for many people is to lower their risk of getting and spreading gonorrhea. Take the following actions to lower your risk:

  • When having sex, always use a condom or dental dam.
  • Never engage in sexual activity with a person who is still infected.
  • Don’t engage in sexual activity with someone who has gonorrhea symptoms.
  • Limit your sexual partners and be honest about your sex life.
  • Test yourself for gonorrhea and encourage your partners to do the same.
  • If you engage in sexual activity, there is no 100% guarantee of gonorrhea protection. For example, condoms can rupture. However, exercising extra care while having sex can significantly lower your chance of infection.

Can I have sexual relations after gonorrhea treatment?

When you can resume sex will be determined by your healthcare provider. You should usually wait at least a week after you and your partner(s) have finished all of your medications before having sex. Wait until your symptoms have subsided as well.

How can I take care of myself?

Consider regular STI testing if you are sexually active and at high risk for gonorrhea. Because many STIs, including gonorrhea, do not cause symptoms, you could be infected and infect others without realizing it. Untreated gonorrhea can also lead to complications, which can be avoided with regular testing and treatment.

Tips

Using a condom or dental dam during any sexual activity is the best way to avoid gonorrhea. Safer sex is especially important with gonorrhea because it does not always cause symptoms. If you believe you have been exposed, don’t let embarrassment keep you from seeing your healthcare provider. Get tested right away. Untreated gonorrhea can have long-term consequences for your health. These complications should not befall you, especially when a simple course of antibiotics can cure your infection.

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