About gonorrhea in women

What is gonorrhea in women?

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that is transmitted during sexual activity.

  • Gonorrhea is not transmitted from toilet seats.
  • Women infected with gonorrhea may not have any symptoms.
  • Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics.
  • Gonorrhea may cause PID, tubo-ovarian abscess, and sterility.

What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that can be transferred from one person to another through any type of sexual contact. STDs are sometimes referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) since they involve the transmission of a disease-causing organism from one person to another during sexual activity. It is important to realize that sexual contact includes more than just sexual intercourse (vaginal and anal). Sexual contact includes kissing, oral-genital contact, and the use of sexual "toys," such as vibrators. STDs probably have been around for thousands of years, but the most dangerous of these conditions, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS caused by the human immunodeficiency virus - HIV), has only been recognized since 1984.

Many STDs are treatable, but effective cures are lacking for others, such as HIV, HPV, and hepatitis B and C. Even gonorrhea, once easily cured, has become resistant to many of the older traditional antibiotics. Many STDs can be present in, and spread by, people who do not have any symptoms of the condition and have not yet been diagnosed with an STD. Therefore, public awareness and education about these infections and the methods of preventing them is important.

There really is no such thing as "safe" sex. The only truly effective way to prevent STDs is abstinence. Sex in the context of a monogamous relationship wherein neither party is infected with a STD also is considered "safe." Most people think that kissing is a safe activity. Unfortunately, syphilis, herpes, and other infections can be contracted through this relatively simple and apparently harmless act. All other forms of sexual contact carry some risk. Condoms are commonly thought to protect against STDs. Condoms are useful in decreasing the spread of certain infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea; however, they do not fully protect against other infections such as genital herpes, genital warts, syphilis, and AIDS. Prevention of the spread of STDs is dependent upon the counseling of at-risk individuals and the early diagnosis and treatment of infections.

What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection caused by the organism Neisseria gonorrheae that is transmitted by sexual contact. Gonorrhea is one of the oldest known sexually transmitted diseases. Among individuals who are infected with gonorrhea, 50% to 70% also will be infected with chlamydia, another type of bacteria that causes another STD.

Contrary to popular belief, gonorrhea cannot be transmitted from toilet seats or door handles. The bacterium that causes gonorrhea requires very specific conditions for growth and reproduction. It cannot live outside the body for more than a few seconds or minutes, nor can it live on the skin of the hands, arms, or legs. It survives only on moist surfaces within the body and is found most commonly in the vagina, and, more commonly, the cervix. (The cervix is the end of the uterus that protrudes into the vagina.) It can also live in the tube (urethra) through which urine drains from the bladder. Gonorrhea can even exist in the back of the throat (from oral-genital contact) and in the rectum.



What are the symptoms for gonorrhea in women?

The male reproductive system makes, stores and moves sperm. Testicles produce sperm. Fluid from the seminal vesicles and prostate gland combine with sperm to make semen. The penis ejaculates semen during sexual intercourse.

Female reproductive system 

The ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix and vagina (vaginal canal) make up the female reproductive system.

In many cases, gonorrhea infection causes no symptoms. Symptoms, however, can affect many sites in your body, but commonly appear in the genital tract.

Gonorrhea affecting the genital tract

Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea infection in men include:

  • Painful urination
  • Pus-like discharge from the tip of the penis
  • Pain or swelling in one testicle

Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea infection in women include:

  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods, such as after vaginal intercourse
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain

Gonorrhea at other sites in the body

Gonorrhea can also affect these parts of the body:

  • Rectum. Signs and symptoms include anal itching, pus-like discharge from the rectum, spots of bright red blood on toilet tissue and having to strain during bowel movements.
  • Eyes. Gonorrhea that affects your eyes can cause eye pain, sensitivity to light, and pus-like discharge from one or both eyes.
  • Throat. Signs and symptoms of a throat infection might include a sore throat and Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Joints. If one or more joints become infected by bacteria (septic arthritis), the affected joints might be warm, red, swollen and extremely painful, especially during movement.

When to see your doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any troubling signs or symptoms, such as a Burning sensation when you urinate or a pus-like discharge from your penis, vagina or rectum.

Also make an appointment with your doctor if your partner has been diagnosed with gonorrhea. You may not experience signs or symptoms that prompt you to seek medical attention. But without treatment, you can reinfect your partner even after he or she has been treated for gonorrhea.



What are the causes for gonorrhea in women?

Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The gonorrhea bacteria are most often passed from one person to another during sexual contact, including oral, anal or vaginal intercourse.



What are the treatments for gonorrhea in women?

Adults with gonorrhea are treated with antibiotics. Due to emerging strains of drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that uncomplicated gonorrhea be treated with the antibiotic ceftriaxone — given as an injection — with oral azithromycin (Zithromax).

If you're allergic to cephalosporin antibiotics, such as ceftriaxone, you might be given oral gemifloxacin (Factive) or injectable gentamicin and oral azithromycin.

Gonorrhea treatment for partners

Your partner also should go through testing and treatment for gonorrhea, even if he or she has no signs or symptoms. Your partner receives the same treatment you do. Even if you've been treated for gonorrhea, a partner who isn't treated can pass it to you again.

 



What are the risk factors for gonorrhea in women?

Sexually active women younger than 25 and men who have sex with men are at increased risk of getting gonorrhea.

Other factors that can increase your risk include:

  • Having a new sex partner
  • Having a sex partner who has other partners
  • Having more than one sex partner
  • Having had gonorrhea or another sexually transmitted infection



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