Gonorrhea: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is an infection caused by bacteria that is transmitted sexually. The parts of the body mostly affected by gonorrhea includes the throat, urethra, rectum or cervix.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease, though infected mothers can transmit the infection to their babies during childbirth. Gonorrhea commonly affects the eyes in babies.

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In most cases, gonorrhea causes no symptoms. You may not even know that you’re infected. Sexually transmitted infections can be prevented if you abstain from sex, use a protective barrier like a condom, or being in a mutually monogamous relationship.

Symptoms of Gonorrhea

In many cases, gonorrhea infection causes no symptoms. However, when symptoms do appear, it can affect multiple sites in your body, but it commonly appears in the genital tract.

Gonorrhea affecting the genital tract

Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea infection in men include:

  • Pain when passing out urine
  • Pus-like discharge from penis
  • Pain in one testicle

Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea infection in women include:

  • Painful urination
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Painful intercourse
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods, such as after vaginal intercourse

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Gonorrhea at other sites in the body

  • Symptoms include discharge from rectum that is pus-like in appearance, anal itching, spots of bright red blood on toilet tissue and having to strain during bowel movements.
  • Symptoms may include pus-like discharge from one or both eyes, eye pain, and sensitivity to light.
  • Signs and symptoms of a throat infection may include a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Symptoms of gonorrhea infection on joint include warm, red, swollen and extremely painful joint.

When to see your doctor

Consult your doctor if you notice burning sensation when you urinate or a pus-like discharge from your penis, vagina or rectum.

Causes of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which is mostly transmitted from one partner to another through vaginal and oral sexual contact. The gonorrhea bacteria are most often passed from one person to another during sexual contact, including oral, anal or vaginal intercourse.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of gonorrhea infection include:

  • A new sex partner
  • A sex partner who has multiple partners
  • Younger age
  • Previous gonorrhea diagnosis
  • Having other sexually transmitted infections


If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to significant complications, such as:

  • Infertility in women:Untreated gonorrhea can spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may lead to scarring of the tubes.
  • Infertility in men:If gonorrhea is left untreated in men, it can lead to epididymitis. (Inflammation of a small, coiled tube in the rear portion of the testicles where the sperm ducts are located (epididymis).
  • Infection that spreads to the joints and other areas of your body:The bacterium that causes gonorrhea can spread through the bloodstream and infect other parts of your body, including your joints. Fever, rash, skin sores, joint pain, swelling and stiffness are possible results.
  • Increased risk of HIV/AIDS:Having gonorrhea makes you more susceptible to infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that leads to AIDS. People who have both gonorrhea and HIV are able to pass both diseases more readily to their partners.
  • Complications in babies.Babies who contract gonorrhea from their mothers during birth can develop blindness, sores on the scalp and infections.


Take steps to reduce your risk of gonorrhea:

  • Use a condom if you choose to have oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
  • Ask your partner to be tested for sexually transmitted infections.
  • Don’t have sex with someone who has any unusual symptoms.
  • Go for regular gonorrhea screening.

Annual screening is recommended for all sexually active women less than 25 years of age and for older women at increased risk of infection, such as those who have a new sex partner, more than one sex partner, a sex partner with concurrent partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection.

Regular screening is also recommended for men who have sex with men, as well as their partners.

To avoid reinfection with gonorrhea, abstain from unprotected sex for seven days after you and your sex partner have completed treatment and after resolution of symptoms, if present.


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