Gonorrhea is a contagious bacterial infection that’s been known since ancient times. Following a 13-year decline in the number of gonorrhea cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of infection increased in the late 1990s. In 2013, 333,004 cases were reported.
You can have gonorrhea without any obvious symptoms, especially if you’re a woman. If any symptoms are noticeable, they generally occur within 2 to 10 days of infection. Gonorrhea is spread by direct contact with infected mucous membranes in the genitals, mouth, and throat. In women, the bacteria typically infect the cervix (the opening of the uterus), which becomes tender to the touch and inflamed. In about 15 percent of infected women, the infection travels to the fallopian tubes.
Men are usually infected first in the urethra, the tube that urine and sperm pass through.
Symptoms of Gonorrhea
- Painful or burning sensation during urination
- Green-yellow vaginal or penile discharge
- Pelvic and lower abdominal pain
- Sore throat (if contracted through oral sex)
- Rectal pain or discharge (if contracted through anal sex)
- Pain during intercourse
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
What Causes Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, that can grow rapidly in the body’s mucous membranes. The infection is spread by sexual contact (vaginal, anal, oral). A baby can contract gonorrhea from an infected pregnant mother during childbirth, which may cause the infant to go blind unless promptly treated.
What If You Do Nothing?
Gonorrhea may be both chronic and progressive. If left untreated, it can result in arthritis, skin sores, and heart or brain infection. In women, the disease can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause chronic pelvic pain and may also damage fallopian tubes, leading to ectopic pregnancy (potentially fatal to the mother). In men, gonorrhea can affect the prostate and also lead to scarring inside the urethra, making urination difficult. Gonorrhea can also cause permanent sterility in both women and men, and it can facilitate the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Infants born to infected mothers are at risk of becoming blind unless treated.
Home Remedies for Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea cannot be accurately diagnosed and treated without professional help. There are no home remedies, so see a doctor or another healthcare professional if you get infected or think you might be infected. You should abstain from sexual intercourse until your physician is sure the infection is completely cured.
- Know your partner. Get to know your sex partner before becoming intimate. Avoid anyone whose health status is questionable.
- Use a condom. Latex condoms effectively prevent the spread of gonorrhea.
- Observe good hygiene. Wash your genitals with soap and water before and after sexual contact.
- Detect it early. If you notice any symptoms, avoid sexual contact and see your physician or other health-care provider immediately. Also notify all of your recent sex partners so that they can get tested and receive treatment, if necessary.
- Get tested routinely if you are at high risk. Individuals at high risk include young women (under the age of 25) who have had two or more sex partners within the past year and both men and women with a history of repeated episodes of gonorrhea. Also, be sure to get tested if you become pregnant and have had multiple sex partners.
Beyond Home Remedies: When To Call Your Doctor
Contact your physician immediately if you have any symptoms of gonorrhea listed above or if you find that a sex partner has gonorrhea.
What Your Doctor Will Do
Following a thorough examination, your physician will diagnose the ailment with a smear or culture taken from the site of exposure, or with a nonculture blood test, specifically a DNA probe or an enzyme immunoassay (EIA).
The usual antibiotics, when taken as prescribed, can cure most cases of gonorrhea. Some strains of the bacterium are resistant to standard antibiotics and so newer medications must be used. Be sure to tell your doctor if your infection may have been acquired in Hawaii, the Pacific Islands, or Asia, where problems with resistance have been increasing recently (but are not confined to these areas).
The Complete Home Wellness Handbook
John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter
Updated by Remedy Health Media