Diseases & Conditions


GonorrheaCausesDiagnosisMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatment

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is an STD (sexually transmitted disease) caused by a bacteria (Neisseria gonorrhoeae). If it is left untreated, it can spread and cause PID (pelvic inflammation disease) locally or all through the body, affecting the heart and joints.

Causes of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted between persons through vaginal, anal or oral sex. In men there is a twenty percent risk of infection with just one incident of vaginal intercourse with a woman who is infected. Sex between men poses a higher risk. A woman has a higher risk (80%) of infection than a man. Indirect contact does not result in the transmission of the disease.

An infected mother can transmit it to her newborn child during the process of childbirth. Ophthalmia neonatorum is the name given to the disease when it affects the eyes of the infant.

Diagnosis of Gonorrhea

Laboratory studies can be done for people suspected of having gonorrhea. The tests available are as follows:

  • Gram stain: It is an inexpensive and quick test that does not give conclusive results but is useful in determining the presence of a bacteria and identifying it.
  • Culture: doing a culture of a swab taken from the infected area can help treatment by determining whether the infection will be susceptible to antibiotics.
  • NAAT: Nucleic Acid Amplification Test’s are helpful in identifying the DNA sequence of the pathogen. It is particularly useful when obtaining swabs are difficult.

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are fairly common and are gaining popularity. Imaging tests such as ultrasound or CT scan of the pelvic region can reveal complications that are typically associated with pelvic inflammation disease. People who test positive for gonorrhea should be tested for other STD’s as well.

Medication for Gonorrhea

If gonorrhea is not treated, the risk involved can increase. Antibiotics have been found effective in containing the infection except in cases where the strain is resistant to antibiotics.

  • Penicillin
  • Sulphonamides
  • Tetracyclines
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Cefixime
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Ofloxacin

Medication when both Chlamydia and gonorrhea infections are present:

  • Antibiotic combinations
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Doxycycline
  • Azithromycin

Some of the other medications available are:

  • Suprax
  • Rocephin
  • Spectinomycin
  • Trobicin
  • Silver nitrate
  • Erythromycin
  • Erygel

Prevention of Gonorrhea

The best and most effective way to avoid contracting gonorrhea is by abstaining from sexual contact with a partner who is known to be infected. Using condoms can decrease the chances of transmission. People who are already infected should be given counseling and information so that other STDs can be avoided. Unwanted pregnancies can also be avoided. Tracing and treating the partners of an infected person can help reduce further transmission.

Risk Factors of Gonorrhea

Meningitis, endocarditis, septic arthritis and skin pustules are some of the complications that can arise in a person suffering from gonorrhea. Untreated gonorrhea can result in urethritis (inflammation of urethral structure), prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) and epididymitis in men.

PID is the most commonly occurring complication in women whose infection has not been treated. Perihepatitis, septic arthritis, septic abortion, blindness caused by conjunctivitis and infertility are the risk factors affecting women with gonorrhea.

Symptoms of Gonorrhea

The period of incubation for gonorrhea is between two and thirty days. Symptoms normally occur four to six days after a person has been infected.

Women: 50% are asymptomatic while the other 50% have symptoms such as

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Men

  • Pain while urinating
  • Discharge (from penis)
  • Treatment for Gonorrhea

    Gonorrhea can be cured through medication. Treatment is usually done with antibiotics but strains of the disease that are resistant to drugs are increasing in the world today. Although medication can help to restrict infection, any damage previously suffered is mostly permanent. It is important to take the prescribed medication correctly and also test oneself for other STD’s. Simultaneous treatment can be done for people with multiple sexually transmitted diseases.

    Sexual partners should be tested for potential infection and treated if found positive. Avoiding sexual contact, rubbing the eyes and maintaining good hygiene can ensure that the disease does not spread to other people.