Gonorrhea is among the most widespread sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The symptoms of gonorrhea can be delayed or even absent altogether, meaning it can often be transmitted without any forewarning. Yet, gonorrhea is treated just as easily as it is transmitted; the key is to get it treated early, as if it is left untreated for an extended period of time, it can lead to complications including infertility.
Gonorrhea behaves differently in men and women. According to the UCLA Health System, the symptoms of gonorrhea may take much longer to develop in males than in females. For females, symptoms of gonorrhea are typically presented within a few days of the infection, but males can take weeks before experiencing any symptoms. In fact, in many people, symptoms may not develop at all. Planned Parenthood reports that as many as four out of five women and one out of ten men show no symptoms of gonorrhea.
Specific symptoms of gonorrhea can also vary based on gender. In males, one common symptom of gonorrhea involves complications with urination, which may become unusually frequent. Men may experience a persistent feeling of needing to urinate, along with pain or burning during urination. White, yellow, or green penile discharge may occur and the urethra may become red or swollen. Testicular swelling or tenderness may develop as well.
As with males, a frequent symptom of gonorrhea in women is vaginal discharge that may be white, yellow, or green in color. According to the Mayo Clinic, bleeding may occur after intercourse or at other times between periods. Women may also experience burning during urination. Pain or discomfort in the abdominal and pelvic areas may develop as well.
Detecting gonorrhea is the first step in treating it. People who engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners witness the greatest risk of catching gonorrhea. When this is the case, regular STD screening is advisable to catch anything that may have been transmitted early. Testing for gonorrhea can involve a gram stain, cultures, or urine testing.
Treatment for gonorrhea is very straightforward. Doctors will prescribe one of a few possible antibiotics that can clear up the infection. When a doctor prescribes an antibiotic for gonorrhea, the full course should be taken even if symptoms appear to clear up before it is finished. Sexual activity should be avoided until after the full course of treatment is completed.
The second step in gonorrhea treatment is that any recent sexual partners should be informed of the infection such that they can be tested (and treated if necessary), limiting further spread of the disease. Gonorrhea is very easily spread, particularly because its symptoms can be delayed or missing altogether.
If you believe you may have gonorrhea, consult your doctor. Early detection and treatment, in tandem with use of protection, is critical to controlling the spread of gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Gonorrhea. Mayo Clinic.
Gonorrhea. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.
Gonorrhea. UCLA Health System. University of California Los Angeles.