is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD).
What causes gonorrhea?
is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can
grow and multiply easily in mucous membranes of the body.
Gonorrhea bacteria can grow in the warm, moist areas of
the reproductive tract, including the cervix (opening
to the womb), uterus (womb), and fallopian tubes (egg
canals) in women, and in the urethra (urine canal) in
women and men. The bacteria can also grow in the mouth,
throat, and anus.
do people get gonorrhea?
is spread through sexual contact (vaginal, oral, or anal).
This includes penis-to- vagina, penis-to-mouth, penis-to-anus,
mouth-to-vagina, and mouth-to-anus contact. Ejaculation
does not have to occur for gonorrhea to be transmitted
or acquired. Gonorrhea can also be spread from mother
to child during birth.
Gonorrhea infection can spread to other unlikely parts
of the body. For example, a person can get an eye infection
after touching infected genitals and then the eyes. Individuals
who have had gonorrhea and received treatment may get
infected again if they have sexual contact with persons
infected with gonorrhea.
common is gonorrhea?
is a very common infectious disease. Each year approximately
650,000 people in the United States are infected with
gonorrhea. In Wisconsin, it is the second most commonly
are the signs and symptoms of gonorrhea?
initially infected, the majority of men have some signs
or symptoms. Symptoms and signs include a burning sensation
when urinating and a yellowish white discharge from the
penis. Sometimes men with gonorrhea get painful or swollen
In women, the early symptoms of gonorrhea are often mild,
and many women who are infected have no symptoms of infection.
Even when a woman has symptoms, they can be so non-specific
as to be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection.
The initial symptoms and signs in women include a painful
or burning sensation when urinating and a vaginal discharge
that is yellow or occasionally bloody. Women with no or
mild gonorrhea symptoms are still at risk of developing
serious complications from the infection. Untreated gonorrhea
in women can develop into pelvic inflammatory
disease (PID). Please see below for more about the
complications of gonorrhea.
Symptoms of rectal infection include discharge, anal itching,
soreness, bleeding, and sometimes painful bowel movements.
Infections in the throat cause few symptoms.
do symptoms appear?
males, symptoms usually appear 2 to 5 days after infection,
but it can take as long as 30 days for symptoms to begin.
Regardless of symptoms, once a person is infected with
gonorrhea, he or she can spread the infection to others
if condoms or other protective barriers are not used during
is gonorrhea diagnosed?
laboratory tests are available to diagnose gonorrhea.
A health care provider can obtain a sample of fluid from
the infected mucus membrane (cervix, urethra, rectum,
or throat) and send the specimen to a laboratory for analysis.
Gonorrhea that is present in the male or female genital
tract can be diagnosed in a laboratory by using a urine
specimen from an infected person. A quick laboratory test
for gonorrhea that can be done in the clinic or doctor's
office is a Gram stain. The Gram stain allows the doctor
to see the gonorrhea bacteria under a microscope. This
test works better for men than for women.
is at risk for gonorrhea?
who is sexually active can be infected with gonorrhea,
but those at greater risk include:
sexually active adolescents
diagnosed with any STD
with a sex partner diagnosed with any STD
with more than one sex partner
with a new sex partner
is the treatment for gonorrhea?
of the currently used antibiotics can successfully cure
gonorrhea in adolescents and adults. Penicillin is a common
antibiotic that is no longer used to treat gonorrhea,
because many strains of the gonorrhea bacterium have become
resistant to penicillin. Because many people with gonorrhea
also have chlamydia, antibiotics
for both infections are usually given together. Persons
with gonorrhea should also be screened for other STDs.
is important to take all of the medication prescribed
to cure gonorrhea, even if the symptoms or signs stop
before all the medication is gone. Although medication
will stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent
damage done by the disease. Persons who have had gonorrhea
and have been treated can also get the disease again if
they have sexual contact with an infected person.
What are the complications of gonorrhea?
gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent problems in
both women and men.
In women, gonorrhea is a common cause of pelvic
inflammatory disease (PID). About 1 million women
each year in the United States develop PID. Women with
PID do not necessarily have symptoms or signs. When symptoms
or signs are present, they can be very severe and can
include strong abdominal pain and fever. PID can lead
to internal abscesses (pus pockets that are hard to cure),
long-lasting pelvic pain, and infertility. PID can cause
infertility or damage the fallopian tubes (egg canals)
enough to increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic
pregnancy is a life-threatening condition in which a fertilized
egg grows outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube.
In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition
of the testicles that can sometimes lead to infertility
if left untreated. Without prompt treatment, gonorrhea
can also affect the prostate and can lead to scarring
inside the urethra, making urination difficult.
Gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints. This condition
can be life-threatening. Also, persons with gonorrhea
can more easily contract HIV,
the virus that causes AIDS. Persons with HIV
infection and gonorrhea are more likely than persons
with HIV infection alone to transmit HIV to someone else.
does gonorrhea affect a pregnant woman and her baby?
a pregnant woman has gonorrhea, she may give the infection
to her infant as the baby passes through the birth canal
during delivery. This can cause blindness, joint infection,
or a life-threatening blood infection in the baby.
Treatment of gonorrhea as soon as it is detected in pregnant
women will lessen the risk of these complications.
Pregnant women should consult a health care provider for
can gonorrhea be prevented?
latex condoms correctly every time you have sex.
condoms correctly every time you have sex.
who choose to engage in sexual behaviors that can place
them at risk for STDs should use latex condoms every time
they have sex. A condom put on the penis before starting
sex and worn until the penis is withdrawn can help protect
both the male and the female partner from gonorrhea. When
a male condom cannot be used appropriately, sex partners
should consider using a female condom.
do not provide complete protection from all STDs. Sores
and lesions of other STDs on infected men and women may
be present in areas not covered by the condom, resulting
in transmission of infection to another person.
the number of sex partners, and do not go back and forth
sexual abstinence, or limit sexual contact to one uninfected
you think you are infected, avoid sexual contact and see
a health care provider immediately.
genital symptoms such as discharge or burning during urination
or unusual sore or rash should be a signal to stop having
sex and to consult a health care provider immediately.
If you are told you have gonorrhea or any other STD and
receive treatment, you should notify all of your recent
sex partners so that they can see a health care provider
and be treated. This will reduce the risk that your partners
will develop serious complications from gonorrhea and
will reduce your own risk of becoming reinfected.
CDC-DIVISION OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES PREVENTION
Wisconsin Division of Public Health - Bureau of Communicable
Diseases - Sexually Transmitted Disease Control Section
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