Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by bacteria. It usually affects the sex organs but may also occur in other parts of the body, such as the eyes, throat, and joints.
Untreated gonorrhea can lead to serious problems, including pharyngitis, tonsillitis, severe arthritis, and bloodstream infection. In women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and can be passed from pregnant women to their babies during birth. In men, it can cause infections called urethritis and epididymitis. Urethritis is inflammation (swelling, redness) of the urethra, the tube that carries urine and semen through the penis. Epididymitis is inflammation or infection of the epididymis, a long tube above and behind each testicle.
More than half a million people in the United States get gonorrhea every year.
The cause is a type of bacteria named Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It spreads very easily by having sex with an infected person.
Most men have symptoms when first infected, but many women may have very mild or no symptoms. They often don’t know that they have gonorrhea until they have other problems. Symptoms in men usually start within 2 weeks after exposure. They include creamy green-yellow discharge from the penis, pain when urinating, and painful and swollen testicles. Symptoms in women include pain or burning when urinating, yellow or green vaginal discharge that can be bloody, bleeding between periods, and pain during sex. Other symptoms may include sore throat, low-grade fever; tender lower abdomen (belly); pain in knees, ankles, or elbows; and a rash on the palms of the hands.
For diagnosis, the health care provider asks about symptoms and sexual activity and examines the sexual organs, including the pelvic area for women. Blood and urine tests and tests for STDs will be done. Tests for bacterial genes (DNA) can be done from a urine sample. A sample of discharge from the penis or cervix may be taken and sent to a laboratory for study. Throat, rectum, or eye discharges may also be tested.
Treatment with antibiotics cures gonorrhea in 1 to 2 weeks. The antibiotic is either given by injection or taken by mouth. Uncomplicated gonorrhea is usually treated with one dose of antibiotics.
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