Gonorrhea: Symptoms and Consequences

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that can be contracted through the exchange of bodily fluids such as blood, semen, and saliva. Also known as “the Clap,” gonorrhea is caused by bacteria, which can infect the cervix, urethra, throat, or anus. Most people who contract gonorrhea are under the age of 30. In fact, 75% of all cases in the United States involve men and women between 16 and 30 years old. When treated efficiently, antibiotics cure 95% to 99% of all cases.

Symptoms of Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea can be difficult to diagnose, especially in women. This is because women often exhibit few or no symptoms, or mistake gonorrhea for a mild bladder infection; in fact, as many as 50% of female gonorrhea sufferers experience no symptoms. Men are much more likely to develop symptoms. Gonorrhea can infect the cervix, urethra, anus, and throat. Depending upon how you contracted the disease and how long you’ve had it for, you may experience symptoms affecting a number of these areas.

Symptoms of gonorrhea generally appear between 2 and 10 days after infection, although it could take as long as 30 days for your symptoms to appear. If you are a woman and are suffering from gonorrhea, you may experience bleeding after sex and frequent, painful urination. These symptoms are especially common in the early stages of an infection of the cervix. Later symptoms include nausea, fever, vomiting, bleeding between periods, and a yellow or bloody vaginal discharge.

If you are a man infected with gonorrhea, you may experience pain while urinating, frequent urination, and swollen testicles. This indicates an infection of the urethra. You may also notice a white, green, or yellow discharge from the tip of your penis. Your penis will probably look tender and redder than usual and you may notice a swelling of the glands in the groin area.

The gonorrhea bacteria can also infect the anus and throat. Symptoms of an infection in the anus include painful bowel movements, itching, discharge, and bloody stool. An oral infection often causes a sore throat, and a pus-like material on the tonsils or on the back of the throat. Infections in these areas can easily spread to other parts of the body so it is important to get treated as soon as possible.

Possible Consequences of Infection
If it goes untreated, gonorrhea can be a potentially hazardous disease. Women infected with gonorrhea risk developing a variety of complications. The bacteria can easily travel from the cervix into the uterus, and eventually up the fallopian tubes. This can cause a condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). 15% of women who have the infection in their cervix will develop this disease. PID can damage your fallopian tubes and may lead to infertility. It can also increase your chance of having an ectopic pregnancy. This occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus, usually inside of the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies are extremely dangerous and potentially life threatening.

Men who leave their gonorrhea untreated are also at risk for developing epididymitis, a painful condition of the testicles which can ultimately lead to infertility.

If you display any of the symptoms of gonorrhea, or think you may have been exposed, it is important to get tested for the infection as soon as possible. People infected with gonorrhea are more likely to contract Chlamydia or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to be tested for gonorrhea as the infection can be passed on to your child.

Chat with other women about coping with gonorrhea symptoms and find out about gonorrhea treatment in our STD forum.

Learn more about gonorrhea symptoms with facts and photos at STDs in Color.

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