Gonorrhea is a contagious sexually transmitted infection but what causes that infection? The bacterium Neisseria gonorrhea is responsible for the infection. It is spread by unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person.

Who can get gonorrhea?

Everyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting gonorrhea or other sexually transmitted infections or disease. The highest group of cases in the US is people under 30 years of age. 

Can you get gonorrhea more than once?

Yes because there is not vaccine and your body does not build immunity to it. 

The signs or symptoms

There may not be any symptoms especially in women. When there are signs, the infection may initially only have difficulties in urinating because of the sensation of burning.  Later there can be frequent painful bowel movements as well as urination, a thick cloudy discharge (sometimes yellow or even greenish in color) from the vagina, penis, or rectum, painful intercourse.    

At times, the infection spreads to other areas of the body and will then cause the following:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Pain in the joints
  • Red or purple colored bumps on the hands or feet which is known as arthritis-dermatitis syndrome.

Guidelines for prevention and lowering your risk 

  • Abstaining is the best prevention
  • If you are sexually active practice safe sex by using condoms when engaging in vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • Long term monogamous relationships that are faithful
  • Know your partners sexual history and they yours

When to seek medical care

When left untreated gonorrhea can lead to severe permanent health issues so if you are sexually active and you suspect that you may have been exposed or infected get tested immediately.  

If you have any of these signs, seek medical treatment right away:

  • A discharge from penis, vagina, or rectum
  • If during urination or bowel movements you have pain or burning
  • If you think a partner has similar signs or was positively diagnosed with gonorrhea

How the diagnosis is made

A sample of fluid, either urine or a swab of the discharge, will be collected then sent to be tested. The test results should be back in 2 to 3 days. Most of the time the doctor will test for other sexually transmitted infection that may occur with gonorrhea, like chlamydia.

Treatment for gonorrhea

Your health care provider will prescribe antibiotics. You should completely finish the prescription so that you do not relapse. It is best to not have any sexual contact until after you have finished your prescribed course of treatment. If you are in a committed monogamous relationship your partner should be tested even if they do not have symptoms and will be given the same course of antibiotics. They like you should finish all the medication.  If you have multiple partners, you need to notify all of them and tell them that you have test positive for gonorrhea and they need to get tested so they can be treated as well. By practicing safe sex you will greatly reduce the chance of becoming re-infected by someone.