• Gonorrhea

    Gram stained smear of intracellular Neisseria gonorrheae from a urethral discharge.Gonorrhea is the second most common STD in the United States, with 361,705 cases reported to the CDC in 2001. Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which can grow and multiply easily in mucous membranes of the body. N. gonorrhoeae grows in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, and in the urethra, mouth, throat and anus.

    When initially infected, the majority of men have some signs or symptoms, including a burning sensation when urinating and a yellowish-white discharge from the penis. Sometimes men with gonorrhea also develop painful or swollen testicles. Symptoms usually appear two to five days after infection, but it can take as long as 30 days for symptoms to begin.

    In women, the early symptoms of gonorrhea are often mild, and many women who are infected have no symptoms of infection. Even when a woman does have symptoms, they can be so nonspecific as to be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Initial symptoms in women include a painful or burning sensation when urinating and a vaginal discharge that is yellow or occasionally bloody. Women with this disease who have no or mild symptoms are still at risk of developing serious complications, as untreated gonorrhea in women can develop into pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

    Symptoms of rectal infection include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding and sometimes-painful bowel movements. Infections in the throat cause few symptoms. Diagnosis is easily made by examining bacteria and performing a culture or by rapid diagnostic testing.

    Regardless of symptoms, once a person is infected with gonorrhea he or she can spread the infection to others if condoms or other protective barriers are not used during sex. Any sexually active person can become infected with gonorrhea. In the United States, approximately 75 percent of all reported gonorrhea is found in younger persons, usually from the ages of 15 to 29. The highest rates of infection are typically found in 15- to 19-year-old women and 20- to 24-year-old men.

    Many of the antibiotics currently used for gonorrhea can successfully cure the disease in adolescents and adults. Because many people with gonorrhea also have chlamydia, antibiotics for both infections are usually administered together. Patients with gonorrhea should also be screened for other STDs.

    It is important to take all of the medication prescribed to cure gonorrhea, even if the symptoms disappear beforehand. Although medication will stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent damage done by the disease. People who have had gonorrhea and have been successfully treated can also get the disease again if they have sexual contact with an infected person.

    Gonorrhea Fact Sheet (CDC)
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