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What are the Signs of Gonorrhea?

Disclaimer: Not medical or professional advice.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It usually appears in the form of two joined cells (diplococcus). Gonorrhea is the second most common venereal infection after chlamydia.
This disease has a long history, which can be proved by the first references that appeared in the biblical texts. Gonorrhea was described as retribution for adultery and untidiness. The name is derived from Latin, meaning Flow of Pus. It accurately characterizes the clinical manifestations of gonorrhea. The disease is also referred to colloquially as The Clap, but this word is not used in the official medical terminology. 

What Organs can be Affected by Gonococcus?

  • Urethra.
  • Eyes (in children born to a mother with a gonococcal infection).
  • Throat.
  • Vagina.
  • Anus.
  • Cervical and fallopian tube epithelial cells.

How is Gonococcal Infection Spread?

In 99% of cases, gonorrhea can be transmitted during unprotected oral, vaginal and anal sexual contact. After a single episode of sexual intercourse, a man has a 30% to 40% chance of contracting gonorrhea, whereas the risk for a woman under the same conditions is 85%. The incubation or latent period of gonorrhea is usually from 3 to 15 days, sometimes up to 1 month. There are two types of disease: fresh (up to 2 months from the date of infection) and chronic (when the infection lasts more than 2 months).

What are the Symptoms of Gonorrhea in Women?

There are two most common symptoms that appear a few days after exposure.

  • Frequent urination.
  • Burning and tingling sensation in the genitals.
  • The active growth of gonococci brings other unpleasant symptoms:
  • The mucoid vaginal discharge becomes purulent (or serous-purulent). This kind of discharge is usually yellow-brown in color with an unpleasant odor. Patients often associate it with candidiasis.
  • Itching or burning, pain with urination. This symptom is easily confused with a UTI.
  • The mucous membranes of the genital organs become inflamed, turn red and swell.
  • Lower abdominal pain.
  • Bleeding that is not part of a regular period.

According to statistics, half of the patients have asymptomatic gonorrhea. Therefore, the disease becomes chronic and causes complications, up to infertility. 

What are the Signs of Gonorrhea in Men?

Only 1 out of 5 people might experience mild symptoms. Most often, patients complain about irritation and itching on the glans (head of the penis) that intensifies during urination. Sometimes, gonorrhea causes penis itching. When the disease begins to progress, it can provoke other symptoms.

  • Burning and itching of the urethra.
  • Yellow-brown discharge from the penis with an unpleasant odor, sometimes mixed with blood.
  • Painful spontaneous ejaculation.
  • Painful erection.

If the disease is not treated on time, the infection spreads higher to the urethra, prostate gland, seminal vesicles, and testicles.

What are the Extragenital Manifestations of Gonorrhea?

Oral gonorrhea (also known as pharyngeal gonorrhea) during oral sex leads to the development of gonococcal pharyngitis or tonsillitis. However, the infection can only be detected by test results since oral gonorrhea produces no noticeable symptoms (pain and swelling).

Gonococcal proctitis in women usually results from anal intercourse or the ingress of purulent vaginal discharge into the anus. Symptoms of anorectal gonococcal infection.

  • Anal itching and burning.
  • Pain during bowel movements.
  • Accumulation of purulent discharge in the folds of the skin.
  • Blood in the stool (due to the appearance of anal fissures).

Gonorrhea can also infect the mucous membrane of the eyes. It mostly affects newborns who become infected in the mother's uterine or during birth.

Potential Complications of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can gradually progress and involve all organs and systems if it is not treated with antibiotic medication on time. Gonococci lead to the development of abdominal abscesses, secondary damage to the bladder, kidneys, uterus, ovaries, prostate, eyes, joints, etc. The most severe complications are meningitis and sepsis.

When to Test for Gonorrhea?

  • In case of inflammation in the genitals.
  • Before planning pregnancy, infertility patients.
  • Before surgery on the pelvic organs.
  • After unprotected intercourse with a partner of unknown infection status. 

Prevention of Gonorrhea

Prevention of gonorrhea is quite simple. Condoms must always be used during all sexual intercourse with unfamiliar or unexamined partners. You should avoid sexual contact if your partner is showing any symptoms. Ask them to seek medical help to rule out STD.

What to do if you have Gonorrhea

If you suspect that you have contracted gonorrhea, you should avoid any type of sexual activity and see your doctor as soon as possible.

During the visit, be prepared to.

  • Describe your symptoms in detail.
  • Discuss your sexual history.
  • Provide the contact information for previous sexual partners so that public health officials can contact them anonymously on your behalf.

If you are prescribed antibiotics, it is important to complete the full course of medication to make sure that you are completely treated. A shorter antibiotic use can make the bacteria more likely to develop resistance to the antibiotic.

Learn More about the STD