Women's Health Matters

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Gonorrhea

What is it?
Gonorrhea is caused by the bacteria, Neisseria gonorrhea. It can infect the genital tract, throat or rectum and is spread by having unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected person. If a pregnant woman is infected, her baby can get a serious eye infection. An infected person can pass on the disease for years until they are properly treated. This infection is rarely, if ever, passed from one woman to another during sex. It is also called GC or Clap.

What are the symptoms?
Many women don't have symptoms. Some possible symptoms if you do have them are:

  • increased vaginal discharge
  • frequent or painful urination
  • unusual odour
  • bleeding
  • lower abdominal pain
  • sore throat
  • rectal discharge

Men are more likely to have symptoms which can occur 2 days to 6 weeks after infection. Men may have painful frequent urination and yellowish-white discharge.

How is it diagnosed?
A swab of the infected area can be tested in the laboratory.

Are there any complications?
Untreated gonorrhea can cause a serious infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This can lead to scarring of the Fallopian tubes and result in infertility and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. In the eye, gonorrhea can cause a serious infection. Pneumonia and eye infections are particularly a risk for newborns. Rarely gonorrhea can cause serious arthritis or meningitis.

How is it treated?
Gonorrhea can be treated with a single dose of antibiotic, often cefixime, but it is becoming more resistant to antibiotics. It is important to take the treatment correctly and to have follow-up testing one to two weeks after treatment. Don't have sex while you are taking the drugs. Use a condom in future to prevent infection.

Should my partner be checked or treated?
Yes, all of your sexual partners from the last three months should be tested and treated. Positive tests for gonorrhea must be reported to Public Health, so a Public Health nurse may contact you to ensure that you and your partners have been treated for this infection. If it has been more than three months since you had sex, your last partner should be tested. Gonorrhea can also cause complications for men including sterility, arthritis, eye infections and epididymitis (swelling and pain in the testicles). A public health nurse can help you notify your partner(s) if you wish, and will keep your name confidential. Do not have unprotected sex with an untreated partner because you can be re-infected.

How can I protect myself from gonorrhea?
The best protection from gonorrhea is avoiding intercourse or using a condom for vaginal or anal sex. Gonorrhea can be transmitted through oral sex so you may also want to protect yourself with condoms during oral sex.

 

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Infections

Bacterial Vaginosis

Chlamydia

Crabs (Pubic Lice)

Gonorrhea

Hepatitis

Herpes

HIV/AIDS

Human Papilloma Virus

Molluscum contagiosum

Syphilis

Trichomonas

Yeast infection

  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital