Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that both men and women can get, and can cause eye, throat, cervical, urethral, and anal infections. Old references to gonorrhea in popular culture referred to it as “the clap.” The bacteria can also infect the fallopian tubes and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Gonorrhea can cause serious health problems for women and men, including infertility, if it is not treated.
Prevalence of Gonorrhea:
Rates of gonorrhea have declined over the years, due in large part to successful public health campaigns. Yet it is still common, and estimated that as many as 700,000 people become newly infected with gonorrhea each year.
How It's Transmitted:
You can get gonorrhea by having vaginal, anal, or oral contact with someone who is infected with gonorrhea. Women who are pregnant and have gonorrhea can also transmit it to their child during delivery. During sexual contact there doesn’t need to be full penetration (by a penis or a tongue) for transmission to occur. Using latex condoms from the very beginning of sexual contact until there is no longer skin contact reduces the risk of transmission of gonorrhea.
Most women show no symptoms of gonorrhea. Most men will have symptoms, including:
- Yellowish-white discharge from the penis
- Burning or pain when urinating
- Urinating more often than usual
- Pain or swelling of the testicles
Symptoms for women may include:
- Yellow or green vaginal discharge (that is smelly)
- Burning with peeing
- Dull lower abdominal pain
- Painful penetration/intercourse
- Bleeding after sex
How It's Prevented:
Using latex condoms and/or a latex or polyurethane barrier during oral sex is the best way to prevent gonorrhea transmission when you’re having sex. Gonorrhea can be transmitted even if there isn’t penetration, so it’s important to use barriers from the beginning of sexual contact to the end of sexual contact.
Because treatment is easy, it is best to refrain from having sexual contact with someone else until your treatment is complete. If you know your partner has gonorrhea encourage them to get it treated and refrain from sexual contact with them until they have been treated.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
Gonorrhea can be diagnosed by using a swab to take a sample of discharge from the vagina or penis, or by taking a urine sample.
Gonorrhea is treated using antibiotics. Treatment will depend on where the infection is and your health care provider. As well, some forms of gonorrhea have been found to be resistant against common antibiotic treatments. If you are having sex with a partner, both partners should be treated at the same time to avoid re-infection. Many people with gonorrhea also have chlamydia, and if you are diagnosed with one STD you should be tested for others.