Gonorrhea is an infection caused by a sexually transmitted bacterium that infects both males and females. Gonorrhea most often affects the urethra, rectum or throat. In females, gonorrhea can also infect the cervix.
Gonorrhea is most commonly spread during vaginal, oral or anal sex. But babies of infected mothers can be infected during childbirth. In babies, gonorrhea most commonly affects the eyes.
Abstaining from sex, using a condom if you have sex and being in a mutually monogamous relationship are the best ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
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.