Gonorrhea Symptoms, Transmission, and Prevention

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), which is most commonly spread during unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), an infection that is most commonly spread during unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex.

What is Gonorrhea?

Several sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are present in our world today and gonorrhea is one of them. It is caused by a sexually transmitted bacterium called, Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This infection is most commonly spread during unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex; though behavior that engaging in unprotected sex (e.g. alcohol and illegal drug abuse, particularly intravenous drug use) increase the likelihood of the infection.

The symptoms of this disease commonly appear in the genital tract, and its infection affects multiple sites in the body especially the warm, moist areas including throat, eyes, joints, anus, vagina as well as female reproductive tract including the uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes. The urinary system is involved as well, especially the urethra. Once exposed, the symptoms will occur 2 to 14 days. However, gonorrhea infection will not develop any noticeable symptoms among infected people. Though some patients may not show any sign of gonorrhea symptoms (they are called nonsymptomatic carrier), they are still contagious.

Men may or may never develop obvious signs for weeks; but some of the symptoms include a persistent sore throat, painful urination, pus-like discharge from the tip of the penis, pain or swelling in one or both testicles, redness or swelling at the penis’ opening, and an urgency to urinate.

Women, on the other hand, don’t develop overt symptoms as well. Infection could appear like a bacterial infection or common vaginal yeast. Nevertheless, symptoms in women include painful urination, the urgency to pee, increase vaginal discharge, sore throat, sharp pain in the lower abdomen, spotting or heavier periods, vaginal bleeding between periods, such as after vaginal intercourse, painful intercourse, and abdominal or pelvic pain.

Risk Factors and Prevention

Having multiple sex partners, a new sex partner, or a sex partner who has concurrent partners can increase the risk of gonorrhea infection. Other factors such as young age, previous gonorrhea diagnosis, and having other sexually transmitted infections are its risk.

So the best way to prevent having or spreading gonorrhea is through abstinence from sex. But if you do engage in sexual activity, it better to use protection such as a condom during intercourse. Being in a mutually monogamous relationship is also considered to be one of the safest ways to prevent being infected with gonorrhea.

Moreover, it is advisable to have a regular gonorrhea screening or to avoid having sex with someone who has any unusual symptoms. Be open with your partner and ask him or her to be tested for sexually transmitted infections. Avoid having any sexual activity with them and ask them to seek medical attention if they are showing signs. This can help to rule out a possible infection that can be passed on.

Healthcare professionals have multiple ways to diagnose gonorrhea infection. If you visit your doctor, be prepared to detail and discuss your symptoms and sexual history. You should also provide the contact information of your previous sexual partners so that the doctor can contact them anonymously on your behalf.

Diagnosing Gonorrhea

Diagnosing gonorrhea infection has several ways to do. But first, the health professional has to invite you over in the lab office.

One of the known techniques is using a swab and taking a sample from the area that shows symptoms (e.g. throat, rectum, vagina, or penis). The sample taken will be placed on a glass slide and observed under a microscope.

If the patient is suspected to have a blood or joint infection, the doctor will insert a needle and draw blood from the area showing symptoms. The blood sample will be combined with a stain and observed under a microscope. The doctors will confirm a gonorrhea infection once the blood cells react to the stain. However, this method doesn’t provide absolute certainty though it is quite quick and easy.

The method last on this list involves the same sample. The sample will be placed on a dish as well as in a certain growth condition such as certain room temperature. After several days, a lab technologist will observe if a colony of gonorrhea bacteria has been developed. The growth will confirm if a gonorrhea infection is present.

Results with this method take 24 hours to 3 days.

If the doctor places you on antibiotics, it is important to take the full course of the pills to ensure that infection is fully treated. Not taking the full course of the antibiotics can make the bacteria more likely to develop resistance to the antibiotic. Make a follow-up appointment with your doctor to make sure that your infection is cleared.


So, if you think you are infected with gonorrhea, it is best to visit your doctor to undergo some test. Making an appointment with the doctor is also the best move if your partner is diagnosed with gonorrhea. Otherwise, untreated gonorrhea may lead you to complications such as:

  • Complications in babies: Babies can be affected during childbirth if the mother is infected with gonorrhea. The babies may develop blindness, sores on the scalp and infections.
  • Increased risk of HIV/AIDS: Having gonorrhea can make patients more susceptible to infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can lead to AIDS.
  • Other infections: The bacterium-causing gonorrhea has the ability to spread through the bloodstream and infect several parts of the body which include joints. Patients may experience inflammation, arthritis, and heart valve damage in the spinal cord. Other possible results are fever, rash, skin sores, stiffness, and swelling.
  • Infertility in men: Men have a high risk of epididymitis if gonorrhea is left untreated. Epididymitis occurs in the in the rear part of the testicle where sperm ducts are placed. It happens when the coiled tube in the said portion is inflamed. Experts say that epididymitis is treatable, but it may lead to infertility if left untreated.
  • Infertility in women: Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID is a serious infection that requires immediate treatment. PID is a result of untreated gonorrhea that spread into the fallopian tubes and uterus. This disease may result in scarring of the tubes and may affect pregnancy and fertilization.


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