Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease. Popular names for gonorrhea are clap, drip, dose, and strain.
Gonorrhea is caused by bacteria. The infection is passed from person to person during sex. It is very contagious. The bacteria can enter the body through any body opening, such as the mouth, vagina, penis, or rectum.
In women, the infection usually starts in the cervix. (The cervix is the opening of the uterus inside the vagina.) The bacteria may also infect the throat or rectum during oral or anal sex.
Many women infected with gonorrhea don’t have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they usually start 2 to 10 days after you were exposed to the disease. Symptoms of gonorrhea include:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your recent medical history, including sexual activity. Important questions are whether you use condoms or other forms of birth control and whether you or your partner have other sexual partners.
You should have an abdominal and pelvic exam to see where the infection may have spread. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell if your uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes are tender and possibly infected.
Other infections can cause symptoms similar to gonorrhea. Tests of urine or discharge from the cervix can help your provider know more about the bacteria causing the infection. The tests of discharge can also tell your provider which antibiotics are best for treating the infection. This is important because some gonorrhea bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics usually used to treat the infection.
Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotic medicine, usually given as a shot. Many people with gonorrhea also have chlamydia (another sexually transmitted disease). Because of this, you may be given more than 1 medicine so that both infections are treated.
If the infection has spread to your uterus and ovaries, you may need IV medicine. Depending on how sick you are, you may get the medicine as an outpatient or in the hospital.
Tell your sexual partner or partners about their risk of infection. They should also be treated even if they don't have symptoms.
Cases of gonorrhea are required by law to be reported to the local health department. The clinic staff will ask about your sexual partners. They will be told that they have had contact with someone who has gonorrhea. This will help them get prompt treatment for the infection. (Your name will not be given.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) follow these infections so they can find epidemics in the early stages. This allows the CDC to take steps to prevent new infections and to get as many people as possible checked and treated.
If only the cervix is infected, proper treatment should clear up the infection in about 10 days.
If it is not treated, gonorrhea can spread through the uterus to the fallopian tubes and ovaries, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause:
Gonorrhea that is not treated may spread into the bloodstream and other parts of the body.
A baby can be infected during childbirth if the mother has gonorrhea. When the baby passes through the birth canal, the bacteria can infect the baby's eyes.