Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is also called “the clap,” You may have gonorrhea without any symptoms. Furthermore, symptoms in women are different than in men, so if you think you may have caught the gonorrhea infection, it is best to consult a doctor. Prompt treatment helps prevent complications. Gonorrhea is very common these days around 1.14 million gonorrhea infections are reported in the United States annually. Most infections are reported in the age group of 15 to 24.
What is gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection. Unprotected intercourse can cause the bacteria to enter your body through the anus, vagina, penis or mouth. You can also contract gonorrhea by sharing sex toys that haven’t been washed. A pregnant woman who has gonorrhea can pass it to her baby during birth.
What causes gonorrhea?
The bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
How is gonorrhea transmitted?
Gonorrhea is most commonly spread during oral, vaginal or anal sex. However, there is also a possibility of babies getting the infection during childbirth if the mother is infected. In babies, gonorrhea usually affects the eyes.
The common site of infection in women is the cervix. In men, the urethra is most commonly affected.
Female to female std transmission such as gonorrhea can occur through the skin to skin contact, exposure to vaginal fluids, menstrual blood or by sharing unwashed sex toys.
What are the risk factors for getting gonorrhea?
Several risk factors make you more prone to getting gonorrhea. It is common in sexually active women, mostly under 25, and among men who have sex with men.
Factors that can increase your risk include:
- Having a new sex partner
- Having multiple sex partners
- Having a sex partner who has multiple partners
- Being diagnosed with gonorrhea or another sexually transmitted infection in the past
What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?
Many people don’t experience any symptoms even when they have gonorrhea. Even though you may be an asymptomatic carrier, you can still transmit gonorrhea. Since you aren’t aware you have the infection, transmission to a sexual partner is most likely.
Symptoms of gonorrhea in women
Many women don’t develop gonorrhea symptoms. However, symptoms can appear anywhere from a day to several weeks after exposure as the gonorrhea incubation period ranges between 1-14days.
These symptoms can be mild and confused with other infections such as yeast infections or bacterial infections. Gonorrhea discharge in women can be creamy, watery, or greenish vaginal discharge gonorrhea in the vagina.
Other signs of gonorrhea in women include:
- burning or pain while urinating
- increased frequency of urination
- irregular bleeding, spotting between periods or heavy periods or brown vaginal discharge
- pain during intercourse
- sharp pain in the lower abdomen
- itching and soreness in the anal region
- pain while passing stool
- rectal bleeding
- discharge from the rectum
Symptoms of gonorrhea in men
Burning or pain during urination is often the first reported symptom and can be confused with a urinary tract infection.
Other possible signs and symptoms of gonorrhea in men include:
- increased frequency of urination
- clear sticky discharge or pus-like discharge from your penis (the color of the discharge can be yellow, white, beige, or greenish)
- swelling and discoloration at the penis opening
- testicular swelling
- testicular discomfort
- itching and soreness in your anus
- rectal bleeding
- rectal discharge
- pain while passing stool
Can gonorrhea affect other sites in the body?
The bacterium causing gonorrhea may spread through the bloodstream and infect other areas of the body. Fever, gonorrhea rash, sores, joint pain, and swelling can be some signs that the infection has spread to other regions of your body.
Gonorrhea can also affect other parts of your body. Some commonly affected sites of infection include:
- Eyes: If gonorrhea affects your eyes, it results in eye pain. Gonorrhea in the eye can lead to light sensitivity and discharge from one or both eyes. The discharge can be pus-like.
- Throat: Gonorrhea in the throat is caused by giving oral sex to an infected person. Symptoms of a throat infection include a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes, usually in the neck.
- Rectum: Anal intercourse causes an infection in the rectum. Signs and symptoms include anal itching, rectal discharge, rectal bleeding, and pain during bowel movements.
- Joints: Sometimes, joints may be affected. The affected joints are usually excruciating, warm, red, and swollen. The pain worsens on movement, and the condition is called septic arthritis.
How is gonorrhea diagnosed?
Firstly, your doctor will take your detailed medical and sexual history. After that, a urine test is often used to diagnose gonorrhea. Other examinations/tests performed include:
- A pelvic exam for females during which a fluid sample is taken from the cervix to test.
- A sample of fluid/discharge from the penis.
- A throat or anal culture is done to see if there is an infection in those regions.
The tests depend on your sexual history and presenting symptoms. Your doctor will order tests according to your situation. People in whom gonorrhea is suspected are also simultaneously tested for chlamydia; these two infections often occur together.
How is gonorrhea treated in men and women?
Gonorrhea cannot be treated with home remedies. If you have symptoms of gonorrhea, or you or your sexual partner have tested positive, you’ll need medication for the treatment of gonorrhea.
The CDC previously recommended ceftriaxone plus azithromycin. Due to the increasing resistance to azithromycin of the bacteria causing gonorrhea, CDC has updated these guidelines.
The current treatment for gonorrhea is a one-time intramuscular injection of the antibiotic ceftriaxone. The shot is administered on the buttocks. In addition, your physician may prescribe an oral antibiotic such as doxycycline 100mg twice daily for 7 days.
How long does it take gonorrhea to clear up?
It usually takes 7 days for gonorrhea to clear up with treatment. Different symptoms may clear at different times. Pelvic pain can persist for up to 2 weeks as well. Prompt treatment helps clear the infection sooner.
It is recommended to wait at least a week after finishing your antibiotics before having sex.
Treatment of Gonorrhea for Partners
Your partner must also be tested and treated for gonorrhea. Even if they don’t have any signs or symptoms, they should receive the same treatment as you. This is because you can get the infection if your partner is left untreated.
Treatment of Gonorrhea in Babies
Babies who develop the infection are treated with antibiotics. Babies usually acquire the infection during delivery if mothers have gonorrhea.
How do I prevent gonorrhea?
Abstaining from sex or using protection such as a condom if you have sex helps prevent sexually transmitted infections. Some ways that may reduce the risk of transmission include:
- Using a condom: Abstaining from sex is the definite way to prevent gonorrhea. Using a condom during sexual activity, such as oral sex, vaginal sex or anal sex, can help reduce the risk.
- Avoid having multiple sex partners: A monogamous relationship with a single partner can help lower your risk of infection.
- Make sure that you and your partner are tested for sexually transmitted infections: Before you have sex with someone new, it is a good idea that both partners are tested and share your results to ensure that.
- Avoid having sex with someone with a sexually transmitted infection: Don’t have intercourse with someone portraying signs or symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease such as a genital rash or burning during urination.
- Get regular gonorrhea screening: Screening is recommended for sexually active women, typically under the age of 25 and older women with an increased risk of infection. This mainly includes women with a new sex partner, multiple sex partners, or a sex partner with multiple partners. Moreover, regular screening is also recommended for men who have sex with men and their partners.
Is Gonorrhea Contagious?
Gonorrhea is considered contagious as it spreads quickly during sexual activity.
Although, you can’t spread gonorrhea through touching, kissing or hugging. You also won’t spread it through sharing plates/ cutlery or bathrooms.
Gonorrhea long-term effects
Complications may develop if gonorrhea is left untreated. These are commonly referred to as gonorrhea side effects. Some of these include:
Infertility in women
The infection can travel to the uterus and fallopian tubes, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can result in the tubes’ scarring, making it hard to conceive.
Infertility in men
Gonorrhea can cause inflammation of the epididymis(small, coiled tube in the rear portion of the testicles where the sperm ducts are located). The condition is known as epididymitis. Untreated epididymitis can contribute to infertility.
Infection that spreads to the joints or other your body
The bacterium causing gonorrhea can spread through the bloodstream and infect other parts of your body, including your joints. As a result, a person may experience symptoms such as a fever, rash, joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Increased risk of HIV/AIDS
Getting gonorrhea makes you more susceptible to infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. People who have both gonorrhea and HIV at the same time are more likely to pass both diseases to their partners.
Complications in babies
Babies contracting gonorrhea during birth may go blind or can develop sores on the scalp.
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia co-infection
Usually, your doctor will test for other sexually transmitted infections and gonorrhea. But, mostly, chlamydia is a very common coinfection, and often patients are treated for both chlamydia and gonorrhea even before getting their test results.
For the treatment of uncomplicated gonorrhea, CDC recommends a single 500 mg intramuscular dose of ceftriaxone and 100mg of oral doxycycline twice daily for 7 days for coinfection with chlamydia.
It is also recommended to get tested for HIV if anyone is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. Depending on independent risk factors, tests for additional sexually transmitted infections may be ordered.
How to cure gonorrhea without going to the doctor?
Gonorrhea cannot be cured using home remedies. To cure gonorrhea, treatment with antibiotics is required. If you cannot see your doctor and have symptoms of gonorrhea or have tested positive, you can start treatment at home by consulting with one of our online doctors. Our doctors can prescribe antibiotics for gonorrhea, which will help cure your infection.
When to Consult a Doctor
Gonorrhea is a common STD. The infection can present with symptoms such as pain while urinating or vaginal or penile discharge. However, a lot of people do not experience any symptoms at all. With the proper treatment, usually antibiotics, you can cure gonorrhea and prevent long-term complications. If you have had unprotected sex and think you may have gonorrhea talk to our board-certified physician at Your Doctors Online to get tested and a prescription.
FAQs On Gonorrhea Answered by Your Doctors Online Team
Gonorrhea symptoms in women primarily include an abnormal vaginal discharge that can be creamy, watery or slightly green. Pain or burning while urinating, increased frequency of urination or spotting between periods or heavy periods, and pain during sexual intercourse are other symptoms of gonorrhea.
Symptoms of gonorrhea in men may include frequent urination, discharge from the penis that can be pus-like, swelling at the tip of the penis, and pain or swelling in one or both testicles.
According to studies, 80% of females who have gonorrhea can remain asymptomatic.
Symptoms usually appear about 2 weeks after exposure but may appear months later.
Gonorrhea can present with burning while urinating or frequent urination, abnormal vaginal or penile discharge, redness, and swelling of the genitals, and itching and soreness in the anal region.
Gonorrhea is commonly spread during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. However, there is also a possibility of babies getting the infection during childbirth if the mother is infected. In babies, gonorrhea usually affects the eyes.
Yes, gonorrhea may cause infertility in both women and men. In women, it can result in pelvic inflammatory disease, leading to scarring of fallopian tubes, ultimately contributing to infertility. In men, it causes epididymitis, which can result in infertility.
Brown discharge may be a sign of an infection in women. It is often associated with other symptoms such as a foul smell or pain while urinating. Although, since the sign is non-specific, testing may be required to ascertain the cause.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as pain or burning while urinating, unusual vaginal/penile discharge, abdominal discomfort, or pain while having intercourse, you may be having gonorrhea. However, many people don’t show any symptoms, so if you have had intercourse with a person who has tested positive or if you have a new partner, it is best to get tested.
Yes, gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics. For uncomplicated infections, an intramuscular injection of ceftriaxone is administered, and oral doxycycline is prescribed for 7 days.
Gonorrhea can affect your period. It can result in irregular bleeding, spotting between periods, heavy periods, or brown vaginal discharge.
Many people don’t experience any symptoms even when they have gonorrhea. Although, symptoms can develop within 2 weeks after exposure.
If you start treatment promptly, the infection usually takes about 7 days to clear up.
Discharge caused by gonorrhea can have an unpleasant, foul, or pungent smell.
Gonorrhea is commonly transmitted through sexual activities. However, you can also get gonorrhea if you touch your eye with infected fluids. Gonorrhea can be transmitted to a baby during birth if the mother is infected.
Untreated infection in pregnancy may lead to miscarriages, premature birth, and low birth weight. Gonorrhea can infect an infant during delivery if the mother has the disease. Such babies can develop an eye infection.