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What is gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea infection is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Neiserria gonorrhoeae.

How common is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea infection is the second most commonly reported bacterial STI, after chlamydia.1 Gonorrhea rates fell between the years of 1975 to 1997, after which rates were steady, until a recorded rise in 2005 and 2006. However the rates of reported gonorrhea infection was at an all time low in 2009.1 CDC estimates that over 700,000 cases occur annually in the US, but less that half of these cases are reported to the CDC.2 Like chlamydia, the highest rates of reported gonorrhea infections are in females aged 15-19 years and in males aged 20-24 years.1

How is gonorrhea spread?
Gonorrhea infection can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can also be spread from an infected mother to her baby at delivery.

Does gonorrhea cause symptoms?
Most of the time, a gonorrhea infection does not cause symptoms. About 85% of females and 55% of males have no symptoms from a gonorrhea infection.2 Since most people do not have symptoms of the infection, they do not know that they have an STI and do not go to the doctor to be treated. Without symptoms, infected people can spread the gonorrhea infection to their sexual partners without knowing it.
Because this infection does not usually cause symptoms, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all sexually active females aged 24 and younger undergo screening for gonorrhea infection.3

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

Many people do not have symptoms when they have a gonorrhea infection, but when symptoms do occur, they include painful urination and discharge from the penis or vagina. If the gonorrhea infection involves the anus and rectum, pain with bowel movements and bleeding of the rectum may occur. If gonorrhea infection involves the mouth and throat, the only symptom of infection may be a sore throat.

Are there any treatments available for gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea infection is curable with antibiotics. However, many infections go unrecognized for long periods of time, because the infected person does not have symptoms. If a gonorrhea infection causes damage to a person’s body before antibiotic treatment is started, that damage may be permanent.

What complications can result from gonorrhea?
One potential complication of gonorrhea infection in a female is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). If the gonorrhea infection spreads from the cervix up into the uterus and fallopian tubes, PID can develop. This occurs in about 10-19% of the gonorrhea infections.4 PID may cause permanent damage in the fallopian tube and scarring in the pelvis. This damage to the fallopian tubes and scarring in the pelvis increases the chances that a woman will experience infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain.
Another possible complication of gonorrhea infection is the spread of the infection from a mother to her baby. If a mother has an active gonorrhea infection at the time of delivery, the infant is at risk of developing an eye infection that can lead to blindness.
In both males and females, gonorrhea infections can spread to the bloodstream and cause disease in the heart, brain, and joints.

Does gonorrhea affect the spread of HIV?

When a person has an active gonorrhea infection, they are more likely to acquire HIV from a sexual partner. Gonorrhea infection may increase the chances of getting HIV by up to 3-fold.5 Among men who have sex with men, repeated chlamydia or gonorrhea infections increases the risk of HIV by about 8 times.6

Can gonorrhea be prevented?

Yes; sexual transmission of gonorrhea can be prevented by refraining from sexual activity until a person is in a life-long, faithful relationship with an uninfected partner. Mothers should be screened for gonorrhea infection during pregnancy to prevent the spread of gonorrhea infection to babies.


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2009. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2010. Available at:http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats09/surv2009-Complete.pdf. Accessed December 27, 2011.

2. Korenromp EL, Sudaryo MK, de Vlas SJ, et al. What proportion of episodes of gonorrhoea and chlamydia becomes symptomatic? Int J STD AIDS. 2002;13(2):91-101.

3. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for gonorrhea: recommendation statement. Ann Fam Med. 2005;3(3):263-267.

4. Paavonen J, Westrom L, Eschenbach D. Pelvic inflammatory disease. In: Holmes K, Sparling FP, Stamm W, Wasserheit J, eds. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 4th edn. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008:1017–1050.

5. Hanson J, Posner S, Hassig S, Rice J, Farley TA. Assessment of sexually transmitted diseases as risk factors for HIV seroconversion in a New Orleans sexually transmitted disease clinic, 1990-1998. Ann Epidemiol. 2005;15(1):13-20.

6. Bernstein KT, Marcus JL, Nieri G, Philip SS, Klausner JD. Rectal gonorrhea and chlamydia re-infection is associated with increased risk of HIV seroconversion. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 2010; 53:537–543.

Article from www.medinstitute.org