Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can infect both men and women. It can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is a very common infection, especially among young people ages 15-24 years.
Who is at risk
- Anyone sexually active
- Young women
- Those with a new sex partner, more than 1 sex partner, a sex partner with concurrent partners, or a sex partner who has an STI
- Those who are not in mutually monogamous relationships without consistent condom use
Most women with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. Even when a woman has symptoms, they are often mild and can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Women with gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
Symptoms in women can include:
- Painful or burning sensation when urinating
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding between periods
What you can do
- Use a latex condom the right way every time you have sex.
- Make sure you and your partner have been tested for STDs.
- If you know that you or your partner has an STD, get treated before having sex.
- Be monogamous.
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Sexually Active Women
The USPSTF recommends screening for chlamydia in sexually active women age 24 years and younger and in older women who are at increased risk for infection.
Why screening is important
Getting tested is the only way to know for sure if you have an STD. Most people who have an STD don’t feel sick or have any symptoms.
Gonorrhea can cause very serious complications when not treated, but can be cured with the right medication.
If you have an STD, it’s important to get treatment right away. It’s also important to tell anyone you’ve had sex with that you have an STD so your partner can get treatment, too. This will help protect you from getting infected again.
Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men.
In women, untreated gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Some of the complications of PID are:
- Formation of scar tissue that blocks fallopian tubes.
- Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb).
- Infertility (inability to get pregnant).
- Long-term pelvic/abdominal pain.
What the screening is
A doctor or nurse can test your urine. Rectal and pharyngeal swabs can be collected from persons who engage in anal or oral sex.
The same specimen can be used to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Gonorrhea can be cured with the right treatment. It is important that you take all of the medication your doctor prescribes to cure your infection. Although medication will stop the infection, it will not undo any permanent damage caused by the disease.
It is becoming harder to treat some gonorrhea, as drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea are increasing. If your symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, you should return to a health care provider to be checked again.
With the right treatment, gonorrhea is curable. But one successful treatment won’t protect you for life. You’ll need to keep practicing safe sex to keep from getting it again.