What is gonorrhea?
It is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). About 1 million cases of gonorrhea are reported each year. At least that same number goes unreported.
What are the symptoms?
Most people do not have symptoms. This is why screening is very important.
- Symptoms may appear 2 days to 3 weeks after a person has been exposed to someone with the infection.
- Some people will not have symptoms at all until the infection has caused severe health problems.
People with symptoms will have
- Vaginal discharge
- Painful, burning sensation with peeing
- Lower abdominal pain and fever
- Pain and swelling in testicles
- Redness around the opening of the penis with a milky white to yellow discharge
How can you get gonorrhea?
- You can get it during vaginal, oral, or anal sexual contact.
- Babies can get gonorrhea during birth if the mother has this infection.
- You must be treated for STIs if you are pregnant.
How do I know if I have gonorrhea?
The only sure way to know is to be tested. In many cases, it is very hard to see the symptoms of gonorrhea. People may not know that they have an infection. People can carry the disease for long time without knowing it. Other people do not know they have a gonorrhea infection until a partner(s) is diagnosed.
Can gonorrhea be dangerous?
Yes. Even if you do not have symptoms, gonorrhea infections can cause serious health problems.
If left untreated, it can cause in:
- Permanent damage to the fallopian tubes. This can cause infertility or difficulty getting pregnant
- Higher risk of ectopic or tubal pregnancy. This is a serious condition. It can cause death.
- Arthritis or painful swelling in joints.
- Eye infections. This can cause blindness.
How is gonorrhea diagnosed?
Tests can be done on a urine sample or cotton swab. Swabs are taken from the vagina or penis. You or your provider can do the swab. Samples are sent to a lab for testing. Test results take about 3 to 7 days. The test is often not painful. It can be done even when there are no symptoms.
How is it treated?
Gonorrhea can be serious if left untreated. It can be cured with antibiotics. You will be given an injection and a prescription for pills. Take all the medicine as instructed to make sure it works.
How can I keep from getting an infection?
Guidelines are the same as for other STIs
- Limit the number of sexual partners you have. Talk about monogamy and other expectations with new partners.
- Use protection during sexual activity.
- The best protection is condoms (rubbers) for each sexual contact.
- Spermicidal foams and jellies and diaphragms are less reliable. Use these along with condoms, not in place of them.
- Do not stop using protection until both you and your partner test negative.
If you think you have been exposed to gonorrhea, see a doctor right away.
Make sure your partner is treated also.
Do not have sexual contact until 2 weeks after you and your partner have been treated.
Partners can infect and reinfect each other.
Partner(s) of those with gonorrhea should be tested and treated right away to keep further spread of the disease.
What follow up will I need?
A follow-up appointment will be scheduled 3 months after antibiotics are finished.
- You need to retest for gonorrhea to make sure you are treated and did not get re-infected.
- Some people, such people who are pregnant, need a test sooner than 3 months to be sure their infection is treated.
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