Symptoms in women

Many women don’t develop any overt symptoms of gonorrhea. When women do develop symptoms, they tend to be mild or similar to other infections, making them more difficult to identify. Gonorrhea infections can appear much like common vaginal yeast or bacterial infections.

Symptoms include:

  • discharge from the vagina (watery, creamy, or slightly green)
  • pain or burning sensation while urinating
  • the need to urinate more frequently
  • heavier periods or spotting
  • sore throat
  • pain upon engaging in sexual intercourse
  • sharp pain in the lower abdomen
  • fever

Causes

Gonorrhea is an infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It not only affects the reproductive tract, but can also affect the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, eyes, and rectum.

The infection is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person involving the penis, vagina, anus, or mouth. Men do not need to ejaculate to transmit or acquire gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during delivery.

Although all sexually active individuals are at risk for acquiring gonorrhea, the highest rates of infection occur in teenagers, young adults, and African-Americans.

Testing

Tests for gonorrhea

Healthcare professionals can diagnose gonorrhea infection in several ways. They can take a sample of fluid from the symptomatic area with a swab (penis, vagina, rectum, or throat) and place it on a glass slide. If your doctor suspects a joint or blood infection, he or she will obtain the sample by drawing blood or inserting a needle into the symptomatic joint to withdraw fluid. They will then add a stain to the sample and examine it under a microscope. If cells react to the stain, you most likely have a gonorrhea infection. This method is relatively quick and easy, but it doesn’t provide absolutely certainty. This test may also be completed by a lab technologist.

A second method involves taking the same type of sample and placing it on a special dish. This will be incubated under ideal growth conditions for several days. A colony of gonorrhea bacteria will grow if gonorrhea is present.

A preliminary result may be ready within 24 hours. A final result will take up to three days.

Healthcare professionals can diagnose gonorrhea infection in several ways. They can take a sample of fluid from the symptomatic area with a swab (penis, vagina, rectum, or throat) and place it on a glass slide. If your doctor suspects a joint or blood infection, he or she will obtain the sample by drawing blood or inserting a needle into the symptomatic joint to withdraw fluid. They will then add a stain to the sample and examine it under a microscope. If cells react to the stain, you most likely have a gonorrhea infection. This method is relatively quick and easy, but it doesn’t provide absolutely certainty. This test may also be completed by a lab technologist.

A second method involves taking the same type of sample and placing it on a special dish. This will be incubated under ideal growth conditions for several days. A colony of gonorrhea bacteria will grow if gonorrhea is present.

A preliminary result may be ready within 24 hours. A final result will take up to three days.

Complications

Complications of gonorrhea

Women are at greater risk of long-term complications from untreated infections. Untreated infection with gonorrhea in women may ascend up the female reproductive tract and involve the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. This condition is known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and can cause severe and chronic pain and damage the female reproductive organs. PID can be caused by other sexually transmitted diseases as well. Women may also develop blocking or scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can prevent future pregnancy or cause ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. Gonorrhea infection may pass to a newborn infant during delivery.

Men may experience scarring of the urethra. Men may also develop a painful abscess in the interior of the penis. The infection can cause reduced fertility or sterility.

When gonorrhea infection spreads to the bloodstream, both men and women can experience arthritis, heart valve damage, or inflammation of the lining of the brain or spinal cord. These are rare but serious conditions.

Treatment

Treatment of gonorrhea

Modern antibiotics can cure most gonorrhea infections. Most states also provide free diagnosis and treatment at state-sponsored health clinics.

At home and over-the-counter remedies

There are no at-home remedies or over-the-counter medications that will treat an infection with gonorrhea. If you suspect that you have gonorrhea, you should seek care from a healthcare professional.

Antibiotics

Gonorrhea is usually treated with an antibiotic injection of Ceftriaxone one time to the buttocks or a single dose of Azithromycin by mouth. Once on antibiotics, you should feel relief within days.

The law requires healthcare professionals to report the infection, usually to the county public health department. Public health officials will identify, contact, test, and treat any sexual partners of the affected person to help prevent the spread of the infection. Health officials will also contact other people these individuals may have had sexual contact with.

The emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea is a growing challenge. These cases may require more extensive treatment, with a seven-day course of an oral antibiotic or dual therapy with two different antibiotics, usually for a total of seven days of therapy. The antibiotics used for extended therapy are usually given once or twice a day. Some common antibiotics used include azithromycin and doxycycline. Scientists are working to develop vaccines to prevent gonorrhea infection