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Gonorrhea - Symptoms - Treatments - Prevention


Updated May 16, 2014

According the the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 600,000 new cases of gonorrhea occur annually in the United States. For women this can have a particularly devastating effect on their reproductive health since women usually don't experience any symptoms. Women who are diagnosed with gonorrhea are also often found to have chlamydia. The CDC recommends that all women diagnosed with gonorrhea also receive treatment for chlamydia.

Often called "the clap," gonorrhea is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhea bacteria. This bacteria can be found in moist areas of the body including the vagina, penis, eyes, throat, and rectum. Infection can occur with contact to any of these areas. An infected person may also spread gonorrhea from one part of their body to another by touch. Gonorrhea can be spread through all forms of sexual activity including oral, vaginal, and rectal sex. Gonorrhea may be passed to newborns if their mother is infected when childbirth occurs.

Who gets gonorrhea?

Although any sexually active person can get gonorrhea, it is most prevalent among those from 15 to 30. Women who have vaginal intercourse with an infected man have a 60 to 90 percent chance of becoming infected; while men who have vaginal sex with an infected woman have a significantly lower 30 to 50 percent chance of becoming infected by this sexually transmitted disease.

What are the reproductive health risks to women who get gonorrhea?

"Infections due to Neisseria gonorrhoea, like those due to Chlamydia trachomatis, remain a major cause of pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain in the United States." Additionally, according to the CDC's 2006 Surveillance report on gonorrhea, "epidemiologic and biologic studies provide strong evidence that gonococcal infections facilitate the transmission of HIV infection."

The Bartholin's glands may cause problems for women with gonorrhea. The ducts can become blocked and swell until a sore is formed. If this happens the lower area of the vulva will turn red on the infected side. If the infection is allowed to spread, gonorrhea can affect the uterus by significantly raising the risk that pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) may occur.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

The symptoms of genital gonorrhea differ in men and women.

The cervix is primarily affected in women diagnosed with gonnorhea. However, untreated gonorrhea can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes. Unfortunately, the symptoms of gonorrhea in women often go unnoticed. When women do experience symptoms, they may include:

So how can you know if a man is possibly infected with gonnorhea? About 20 percent of the time, you won't see anything that you can recognize as a symptom of gonorrhea in a man. However, when symptoms of gonorrhea are present in men they can include:

  • a yellow pus-like discharge from the tip of the penis
  • stinging during urination
  • frequent urination
  • blood in the urine
  • swelling of the glands in the groin
  • the head of the penis may turn red

When either women or men experience gonorrhea infection in the throat or rectum, symptoms such as pain, swelling, and discharge often occur.

What are the treatments for gonorrhea?

The CDC recommends several treatment options which include:

  • Cefixime 400 mg orally in a single dose,
  • Ceftriaxone 125 mg IM in a single dose,
  • Ciprofloxacin 500 mg orally in a single dose,
  • Ofloxacin 400 mg orally in a single dose, PLUS Azithromycin 1 g orally in a single dose,
  • Doxycycline 100 mg orally twice a day for 7 days

Patients who are unable to tolerate these treatments can be offered alternative pharmaceutical treatments.

How to prevent gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases...

Condoms provide your best protection against gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases. Of course you have to know how to use a male condom , or you can choose to use the female condom-- just don't try using both a male and female condom at the same time. Remember, everyone who is not in a monogamous long-term relationship needs to protect themselves by practicing safe sex routinely.

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