Gonorrhea is a very common bacterial infection that is transmitted sexually and can present with a variety of symptoms. Many people who come in contact with the bacteria, especially women, do not experience any health problems. When gonorrhea symptoms do occur, however, they are likely to include painful urination, frequent urges to urinate, and pus discharge from the penis or vagina. An untreated case of gonorrhea can result in potentially serious complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease in women or infertility in both sexes. It is important to visit a doctor or health clinic at the first signs of gonorrhea symptoms to receive antibiotic treatment.
Men are more likely than women to develop gonorrhea symptoms. They usually develop about one week after contracting the disease, but problems sometimes appear as late as one month after sexual contact with an infected person. Painful, burning urination is the most common symptom. The tip of the penis may be red and tender, and it may produce a yellow- or green-tinted thick pus. Many men have increased urges to urinate and have unproductive streams as well. The testicles may also become tender or swollen.
Gonorrhea symptoms in women typically resemble those common to other vaginal or urinary tract problems. Like men, women can experience pain and burning during urination. The vagina can be itchy and produce a thick white or yellow discharge. Spotting or heavy bleeding between regular periods is another possible symptom. Often, women with gonorrhea experience chronic, dull pelvic aches and sharp pains during sexual intercourse.
A person also may acquire a gonorrhea infection in his or her rectum or throat when engaging in different types of sexual activities. If bacteria are present in the rectum, an individual may have intense itchiness, blood and pus in the feces, and pain when passing stools. A sore throat, excessive mucous production, and tender lymph nodes are characteristic of a gonorrheal throat infection.
An untreated gonorrhea infection increases the risk of the bacteria spreading to other parts of the body. If a woman's uterus and fallopian tubes are affected, she can experience a very painful condition called pelvic inflammatory disease wherein major inflammation and scarring occurs. Men can develop urethral strictures, blockages or breakages in the urethra due to the presence of bacteria. Both men and women can become infertile if bacteria cause permanent damage to their reproductive structures.
A doctor can usually diagnose gonorrhea by analyzing urine samples or mucus swabs from affected body parts. The physician may ask about specific gonorrhea symptoms to determine the severity and spread of the disease. A single dose of oral or injected antibiotic is usually enough to clear up an infection if it is discovered early. People who receive treatment are strongly encouraged to contact their previous sexual partners to inform them that they may have been exposed as well.