Gonorrhea – Symptoms and Causes

1. Common Symptoms of Gonorrhea

Burning Urination

Symptoms of gonorrhea can vary in women and men. However, most cases might experience a burning sensation when they urinate. This is indeed the most common sign of the condition. It indicates that the reproductive tract or urethra is inflamed or irritated by an infection. While the sensation might disappear on its own, it would become so painful that you need immediate medical attention. Otherwise, gonorrhea would affect the surrounding parts and lead to more serious complications. [1]

2. Pelvic Pain

Another symptom to look for is pain in the pelvic area or lower abdomen. This problem usually indicates the presence of pelvic inflammatory disease or PID, which is a typical sign of gonorrhea in females. The sensation can range from mild to severe, depending on the underlying cause. You might also experience pain during intercourse. In addition, the pelvic inflammatory disease could cause a fever equal or greater than 101 degrees, sometimes with chills. If left untreated, this condition would lead to infertility in the long run. [2]

3. Abnormal Discharge

In both women and men, gonorrhea would lead to an abnormal discharge in their genitals. It tends to be thick and have a yellow or green color. This is a secretion that the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhea produces itself after infecting your body. In women, the symptom would also be followed by bleeding in between periods. It indicates that the body is trying to expel the foreign elements. Therefore, as long as you notice any abnormal genital discharge, make sure to contact your doctor for a comprehensive examination. [3]


5. Painful Bowel Movement

If you practice anal sex on a regular basis, gonorrhea would lead to an anal discharge. This subsequently causes pain and discomfort in bowel movements. Both men and women might experience this symptom. It would significantly affect your daily lives and result in further complications. Persistent and frequent diarrhea would follow anal gonorrhea as well. Keep in mind to see your healthcare provider as soon as you notice those signs to prevent further complications. [4]

6. Swollen Genitals

Swelling in the genital area can also be a possible sign of gonorrhea. This symptom can be seen in both women and men with the condition. When the bacteria penetrate and infect the body, it would inflame and irritate the genitals. As a result, this part and surrounding areas would become swollen and painful. In men, gonorrhea would also cause an inflamed prostate gland and swollen testicles. In women, additional symptoms include soreness, redness, or swelling of the vulva, which is the opening of women’s vagina. [5]

7. Difficulty Swallowing

When gonorrhea affects the mouth, it would cause many issues like yellowish or whitish discharge, general redness, and sore throat. All of these problems would make it more difficult and uncomfortable to swallow foods. The symptom is the same for both women and men. Oral gonorrhea typically does not spread to other people. However, direct contact with an infected person in the back of his or her mouth would increase the risk. Kissing basically does not transmit the bacteria, but contact between body parts and the pharynx would result in transmission. In many cases, people often mistake oral gonorrhea for the common cold or strep throat. It is better to visit your doctor for a precise diagnosis. [6]

8. Symptoms in Babies

Gonorrhea would be passed from mothers to children during pregnancy. This often does not occur when the babies are in the womb. Instead, the transmission would happen during delivery as they are exposed to the genital secretions of the mothers. Bacteria might be transmitted to the eyes of the newborns and trigger ophthalmia neonatorum, which is typically characterized by eye pain, discharge, as well as redness. This condition would be mostly prevented by administering an antibacterial eye ointment regularly at delivery. [7]

9. Common Causes of Gonorrhea

Sexual Activity

You might be infected with gonorrhea after having anal, oral, vaginal, or unprotected sex with a person who has the infection. The risk is also high when the condom breaks during sexual intercourse with your infected partner. Keep in mind that men do not need to ejaculate to transmit the bacteria to their partners. Similar to other germs, touching an infected part of those with the condition would also make you infected. The same holds true when bacteria can penetrate an opening in your body, such as the mouth, anus, penis, and vagina. Even when you have been infected in the past and eradicated the infection, unprotected sex would also make you get the infection.

To reduce the risk of getting infected with gonorrhea, it is recommended to follow the below testing schedule:

– You should have an annual test if your sexual partner is diagnosed with an STI or STD

– You should be tested yearly if you are a woman over 25 years old and have various sexual partners

– You should have an annual test if you are a woman under 25 years old and are sexually active

– You should be tested annually if you are a sexually active man, who has sex with other men or is bisexual or gay

Testing for gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases is not scary or difficult. In most cases, it only requires a simple urine test or swab to get precise results. [8]

10. Genetic Factors

A few factors would make you more prone to gonorrhea, including age and gender. It is important to know that a moist, delicate, and thin condition in the vaginal area would create an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Also, the condition is more common in young adults and adolescents.

Even though age and gender might play a role in increasing the risk of getting infected with gonorrhea, it is significant to know that the number of cases in men has also been recently going up. Thus, further research might be needed to figure out how much genetic factors would affect the possibility of getting gonorrhea in the general population. [9]

11. Lifestyle Risk Factors

Newborn babies would be infected during delivery if their mothers have gonorrhea. The infection often affects their rectum, lungs, and eyes. The risk of getting and spreading the condition is also higher in those people with weakened immune systems. This is because the bacteria can penetrate and attack their bodies much more easily. Keep in mind that the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhea cannot survive outside of our body. Thus, you cannot contract it from clothing, toilet seats, bed sheets, and other household items.

Sexual abstinence is the only way to prevent the infection or spreading of gonorrhea. However, this might be not practical or realistic for many people. Thus, using a condom can be a good alternative. Make sure to choose quality condoms and use them effectively to reduce the risk. [10]

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