There are usually no symptoms with gonorrhea. Men are more likely to have symptoms than women. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms in men may include:
- Burning sensation when urinating
- White, yellow, or green discharge from penis
- Painful or swollen testicles
Although less common, women can also experience burning sensations or pain when urinating, vaginal discharge or bleeding between periods. Often these symptoms are mild and are mistaken for a urinary tract infection, according to the CDC.
If you have rectal gonorrhea, you might have symptoms that include:
- Painful bowel movements
It is important to get regular STD testing if you are sexually active. Even if you don’t have symptoms, you can pass gonorrhea to a sexual partner.
Who is at risk?
Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of getting gonorrhea. The bacteria that causes gonorrhea is found in the semen, pre-cum, and vaginal fluids. It can spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can also get gonorrhea in the eye if you rub your eye when you have infected fluids on your hands, but this is rare, according to Planned Parenthood.
The CDC recommends regular annual testing for people who are sexually active and not in a monogamous relationship, especially:
- Men who are gay, bisexual, or have sex with men should be tested annually
- Women under the age of 25
- Women over the age of 25 who have a new partner or multiple partners
If your partner has tested positive for gonorrhea, you should be tested immediately.
If you are being treated for gonorrhea, you should abstain from sex during the time you are taking medication and for seven days after you complete the medication to avoid being reinfected, according to the CDC.
Prevention and treatment
Gonorrhea is becoming resistant to antimicrobial medications that were traditionally used to treat it. The CDC now recommends a combination of ceftriaxone and azithromycin. Ceftriaxone is given as an injection, and azithromycin is in pill form. If you have been diagnosed with gonorrhea, it is important that you tell all sexual partners so they can be tested and treated as well.
Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious health problems. In women, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain, according to the CDC. In men, it can cause pain in the tubes attached to the testicles. In some cases, this can lead to a man becoming sterile. Having untreated gonorrhea can also increase your risk of getting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to the CDC.
You should get tested three months after your treatment to make sure the infection is gone, according to Planned Parenthood.
Other than abstinence, there is no foolproof method of preventing gonorrhea. You can reduce your risk by using condoms every time you have sex and using dental dams during oral sex. Limiting your sexual partners can also lower your chances of getting gonorrhea.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.