Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection spread through sexual contact (sexually transmitted infection, or STI). It is found most often in the genital area but it can also infect other areas of the body, such as the rectum or throat. While some people who have gonorrhea develop symptoms within a few days after infection, some people have no symptoms. Symptoms of gonorrhea include abnormal bleeding, pain or burning during urination, or a thick discharge from the vagina or penis.
Antibiotics can cure gonorrhea. Both sex partners need to be treated to keep from passing the infection back and forth.
What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?
Many people have no symptoms of gonorrhea. If there are symptoms, they can take several days to appear. Or it may take several weeks. Symptoms may include:
- Pain when you urinate.
- Abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina.
If it isn't treated, the infection can move into the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. This is called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Symptoms can include lower belly pain, pain during sex, vaginal bleeding, and a fever.
You can spread gonorrhea even if you don't have symptoms. You're contagious until you've been treated.
How is gonorrhea diagnosed?
To diagnose gonorrhea, your doctor will ask you questions about your past health and your sexual history, such as how many partners you have. Your doctor may also do a physical exam to look for signs of infection.
Urine or fluid from the infected area will be tested for gonorrhea. You may also be tested for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at the same time.
As soon as you find out that you have gonorrhea, be sure to let your sex partner(s) know. Experts recommend that you tell everyone you've had sex with in the past 60 days. If you haven't had sex in the past 60 days, contact the last person you had sex with.
How is gonorrhea treated?
Antibiotics are used to treat gonorrhea. Early treatment helps prevent the spread of the infection. It also lowers your risk for other problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease.
You and your sex partners need to take the antibiotics. If only one person takes the medicine, you may keep passing the infection back and forth.
To make sure that the medicine works, you need to take all of the medicine as directed. You also need to avoid all sexual contact while taking the medicine. If your treatment is a single dose of medicine, do not have any sexual contact for 7 days after treatment. The medicine needs time to work.