Gonorrhea is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhea. It is estimated that 820,000 new cases of gonorrhea are diagnosed in the U.S. every year.
Gonorrhea is usually transmitted during vaginal, oral or anal sex or through sharing sex aids that have not been washed or covered with a condom each time they are used. A mother can also pass the infection onto her baby during childbirth, which can cause blindness in the infant.
Common symptoms in men include a burning sensation when urinating and a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis, although some men may have no symptoms. Women with gonorrhea do not usually have any symptoms but initial symptoms may include pain or burning on urination, increased vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding between periods and abdominal and pelvic pain.
If a woman is left untreated, infection can spread into the womb and fallopian tubes causing pelvic inflammatory disease which can lead to infertility and an increased risk for ectopic pregnancy. In men, the disease can cause epididymitis, a painful swelling in the back of the testicles that can also eventually lead to infertility.
Gonorrhea is identified using a urine test or swabs taken from a man’s urethra or a woman’s cervix. Antibiotics can be used to stop infection but cannot repair any permanent damage caused by the disease.