There are about 1 million new cases of gonorrhea each year. It is caused by a bacteria.
Gonorrhea is transmitted from person to person through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Ejaculation is not needed for the disease to be passed between partners. Babies can get gonorrhea in their eyes at birth if the mother is infected at the time of birth. It can rarely be passed from sharing a damp towel. It cannot be spread by kissing, toilet seats, bedding, door knobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, shared clothing or eating utensils.
It may take a man from 1 to 30 days before he notices any symptoms in his penis. Women rarely get early symptoms. The disease can be passed even if there are no signs or symptoms.
Tests have shown that 40% of men and 80% of women with gonorrhea have no symptoms. It may cause burning during urination and/or a thick yellowish or greenish discharge. If the rectum is infected, there may be pain during bowel movements along with pus or blood. The symptoms of a throat infection are a dry, sore throat.
If the infection is not treated it can spread in the body and do damage. If the infection reaches the testicles, it can produce scar tissue that blocks the sperm ducts causing sterility. Men may or may not have symptoms that this is happening. In women, gonorrhea can spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes, producing a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This can cause fever, stomach cramps, nausea, backache and painful intercourse. Some women have no symptoms of PID. The tubes can become fully or partially blocked by scar tissue. This can cause sterility or increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. The bacteria can also escape out the open ends of the tubes and infect the covering of the internal organs. Occasionally, gonorrhea that has gone untreated for a long period of time can enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. This is called disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI). It can cause fever, chills, rash, and arthritic swelling of the joints. In rare cases, DGI has reached the heart or brain and has been fatal.
A baby born to an infected mother runs the risk of developing blindness. Special ointments applied at birth reduce this risk.
Since gonorrhea is caused by a bacteria, it is easily treated with antibiotics. A one dose treatment with Suprax or a shot of ceftriaxone are the most common regimens. Make sure all sexual partners are treated as well. Sex should be avoided for 7 days following treatment otherwise re-infection could occur.
Having had gonorrhea does not protect a person from getting it again. If a person took the medication correctly and is diagnosed with gonorrhea again, it is likely that he or she has caught it again.
Two uninfected people with no sex partners besides each other cannot contract gonorrhea. If a person has more than one partner, a latex condom is a good defense if it is put on before starting sex and worn until the penis is withdrawn. There are no methods to detect an infection except through an exam and lab tests done by a health care worker. Washing the genitals, urinating, or douching after sex DOES NOT prevent the disease.