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About Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is an infection caused by the bacterium neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can occur more than once in a lifetime.

Why get tested?

A person who has had unprotected sex should see a health care provider who will assess the need for testing. This will help a person who has gonorrhea avoid passing it on to others and prevent complications.

Gonorrhea is tested by taking a sample of urine or secretions from the vagina, cervix, urethra, anus or throat.

When to get help for gonorrhea?

If you have symptoms or have had unprotected sex, you should see your healthcare professional for testing.

Gonorrhea is often called a "silent disease" because many people have no symptoms and don't know they have it.

Signs and symptoms

Most people with gonorrhea have no symptoms. However, some symptoms may be present in the affected areas of the body, often 2 to 10 days after transmission:

  • Unusual vaginal discharge

  • Clear or coloured discharge from the urinary tract or anus

  • Tingling or burning sensation when urinating

  • Vaginal bleeding after sex or between periods

  • Pain in the lower abdomen, testicles or anus area

  • Pain during sex

Newborns can be infected by their mothers at the time of delivery. The infection may affect their eyes (conjunctivitis) or their lungs (pneumonia). They may have the following symptoms:

*in cases of conjunctivitis: discharge and redness in the eyes;

*in the case of generalized infection: septicemia (blood infection).

Transmission

  • Oral sex (mouth contact with penis, vulva, vagina or anus)

  • Vaginal sex (penis penetration into the vagina)

  • Anal sex (penis penetration into the anus)

  • Contact between genitals

  • Sharing sex toys

  • Mother to baby transmission at birth

Window or incubation period (time before the disease is detectable on screening)

  • 7 days

Prevention

The main protection against gonorrhea is the use of condoms. Condoms should be used during all genital contact and all oral, vaginal and anal sex. Using a latex square to cover the vulva or anus during oral sex is also a reliable way to protect yourself. To make a latex square, simply unroll a condom, cut off the ends and cut it lengthwise. It is also recommended that sex toys not be shared or be covered with a condom whenever possible, making sure to change the condom between partners.

Complications

If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to:

  • Infertility 

  • Testicular pain

  • Chronic lower abdominal pain 

  • Chronic prostate infection (prostatitis) 

  • Epididymitis (inflammation of the testicles that can cause infertility)

  • Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy located in the fallopian tubes) 

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease in women (infection that spreads from the vagina to the uterus, can lead to infertility)

Treatment

  • Because gonorrhea is a bacterial infection, it is treated with antibiotic tablets. 

    Since the infected individual can transmit the disease even during treatment, it is important to avoid sexual intercourse during treatment and for the next 7 days. If sexual relations cannot be avoided during this period, it is essential to use a condom. It is also important to wash your hands well during the treatment to avoid transferring the infection to your eyes (gonorrhea conjunctivitis). Following diagnosis, it is also recommended that current sexual partners and those in the 60 days prior to the onset of symptoms be contacted so that they too can be tested and treated if necessary. This will help break the chain of transmission of the disease.

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