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Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhea bacteria.

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  • How it's spread

    Gonorrhea is spread through condomless oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected person. It can also be transmitted to a baby during birth.  People infected with gonorrhea are at increased risk of contracting and transmitting HIV.

  • What are the symptoms?

    You can get gonorrhea at different sites in your body. In many cases symptoms never appear so you can have gonorrhea without knowing it.  Symptoms can develop between 2-10 days after possible exposure and may include the following:

    • Cervical (vaginal) infection:  People with symptoms may notice an increase or change in vaginal discharge, vaginal irritation, and pain during sex, pain during urination, spotting and/or pain in the lower abdomen.
    • Urethral (penile) infection:  Common symptoms include pain/burning during urination and/or an off-white discharge from the penis. 
    • Throat infection:   Throat infections are less common than genital or anal infections.  People often have no symptoms at all; however some may experience a sore throat.
    • Anal/rectal infection: Gonorrhea can be transmitted through condomless anal intercourse, sharing sex toys or anal play.  Some infected people may notice anal itching, painful bowel movements, an urgency to have a bowel movement, and/or anal discharge.
  • How is it diagnosed?

    • Cervical (vaginal) is diagnosed with a swab or a urine test. If doing a urine test you should not urinate one hour before the test. If a swab is done, there will also be a visual examination of the cervix using a speculum.
    • Urethral (penis):  Diagnosis is usually made through a urine sample although, if discharge is present, a swab may also be taken.  You should not urinate for one hour before a urine test.
    • Throat/anus:  Swabs are taken from the throat and/or rectum.

    Results generally take 1 week to return from the lab.

    If your partner is diagnosed with gonorrhea, you should also be tested and treated.

  • What are the complications?

    Untreated gonorrhea can cause a serious infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes,  called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tubes) and/or miscarriage and infertility.  Gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the testicles that can lead to infertility if left untreated.

    Without prompt treatment gonorrhoea can also affect the prostate and can lead to scarring inside the urethra.  It can also cause an eye infection if the infected discharge touches the eye.

  • How is it treated?

    Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics but it is possible to get reinfected.  It is very important to follow the instructions given with the medication.  First line treatment is an injection and four pills (one dose) of antibiotics.

  • What about my sexual partner(s)?

    All sexual partner(s) within the last two months should be informed, tested and treated if their tests are positive, even though they may have no symptoms.

  • Follow-up

    You will be advised to return for a follow-up test after treatment to make sure that the infection has cleared up.   Avoid having intercourse (oral, anal or vaginal) after you and your partner(s) have been tested, treated and had follow-up testing.  This is usually one week.   If your partner(s) are not treated, there is a high risk that you will be re-infected.

  • Prevention

    Using a condom every time you have oral, vaginal and anal sex will greatly reduce your chances of getting gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted infections.