Also known as “the clap”, gonorrhea is a fairly common sexually transmitted disease. While anyone can become infected with gonorrhea, people between the ages of 15 and 29 are responsible for 75% of the reported cases. Women between the ages of 15 and 19 and men between the ages of 20 and 24 are the most at risk of becoming infected with gonorrhea.

Type of Infection: Bacterial; from the Neisseria gonorrheae bacteria

Mode of Transmission: Mainly through vaginal, anal and oral sex. Bacteria are transmitted through vaginal and seminal fluids. Infection can show up in the genital tract, mouth or rectum.

Symptoms: Once infected, symptoms of gonorrhea can take between two and ten days to show up. In women, the cervix is usually the first site of infection. From there, the infection moves up into the uterus and into the fallopian tubes. Women are much more likely than men to be asymptomatic. If they do develop symptoms, they are likely to include: bleeding after sex, pain or burning sensation when urinating, need to urinate more frequently, vaginal discharge that is yellow or bloody, cramps, bleeding between periods, nausea or vomiting and fever. In men, gonorrhea symptoms include a puss discharge from the penis (white, yellow or green in color) accompanied by pain, burning sensation when urinating and swollen testicles. If the infection is in the rectum, symptoms will include discharge, anal itching and painful bowel movements. It is also likely that your feces will have blood in them.

Treatment: Gonorrhea treatment usually consists of a single dose of medication. Depending on your age and whether or not you are pregnant, some antibiotics may not be suitable to take. Because it is very common for people to be infected with both gonorrhea and chlamydia at the same time, gonorrhea treatments often include medication for chlamydia as well. While the treatment can clear up the infection, it cannot undo any damage gonorrhea may have done to your reproductive system prior to treatment.

Complications: If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to infertility in both men and women. In women, untreated gonorrhea often leads to pelvic inflammatory disease, which increases your risk of ectopic pregnancy and infertility. In men, gonorrhea that is not treated often leads to inflammation of the testicles (epididymitis), which can lead to infertility. The infection can also spread to the rest of the body and cause joint inflammation as well as infect the heart valves and/or the brain.

Consequences in Infants: Women who are pregnant and infected with gonorrhea are at a higher risk of having a miscarriage or going into preterm labor. If you are infected with gonorrhea at the time of birth, it is possible to pass the infection onto your baby during birth. It can lead to blindness, pneumonia, meningitis and septic arthritis in the infant. Many babies receive silver nitrate eye drops or some other type of medicated eye drops immediately after birth in order to prevent a gonorrhea infection. In older children, gonorrhea found in the genital tract, mouth or rectum often suggests that the child is being sexually abused.

Risk Factors: People who do not use condoms during vaginal, anal or oral sex; who have multiple sex partners, or whose partners have multiple sex partners; have a history of sexually transmitted diseases; and those under the age of 30 have an increased risk of being infected with gonorrhea.

Prevention: Practicing abstinence or having sex within a committed, monogamous relationship with someone who has tested free from gonorrhea are the most effective ways at preventing infection. Using latex condoms consistently and correctly every time you have sex can also help to reduce your risk. It is important to remember that you can be re-infected with gonorrhea. If you have previously been infected with gonorrhea, it is important to take precautionary measures in order to avoid a subsequent infection. Women who are pregnant should be tested for gonorrhea at least once during their pregnancy.

Research: Current research is looking into developing new and more effective means of diagnosing and treating gonorrhea as well as creating a vaccine for the infection. Because certain strains of gonorrhea are becoming increasingly resistant to the usual medications, new ways of dealing with the infection need to be created.

To learn about other causes of bleeding after sex, check out our menstruation forum.

Leave a Comment