Gonorrhea is an STD, or sexually transmitted disease (also called a venereal disease). You can get gonorrhea through sexual contact with someone who is infected. You may not initially notice you have become infected, however gonorrhea symptoms can appear at a later stage. Gonorrhea does not go away on its own. Fortunately, this STD is treatable.
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What does gonorrhea look like?
Gonorrhea is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhea bacterium. This pathogen lives in mucous membranes and can occur on and inside the genitals, anus, urethra and throat. As a result, the mucous membrane becomes infected and can become inflamed.
Gonorrhea is highly contagious and is therefore one of the most common STDs. Men who have sex with men are most at risk; the majority of diagnosed gonorrhea infections fall within this group. Yet gonorrhea is also common in heterosexual men and women.
Initially, gonorrhea does not present any symptoms, you will only notice the infection after some time has passed. If you do not have the STD treated, the bacteria can continue to proliferate and cause more damage.
Known gonorrhea symptoms include:
In both men and women:
- Pain or irritation when urinating;
- A sore throat;
- Itching and/or pain in the anus;
- Mucus or pus-like discharge in the stool;
- In rare cases, the disease can penetrate further into the body via the bloodstream and thus cause infections in other places, for example meningitis, blood poisoning or joint infections;
- Some men and women never get any symptoms.
Gonorrhea symptoms in women:
- An increase in vaginal discharge, which may be foul-smelling and pus-like;
- Blood loss between menstrual periods;
- If the gonorrhea bacterium moves further inside the body: inflammation of the uterus or fallopian tubes after some time. This can lead to reduced fertility, infertility and a higher chance of an ectopic pregnancy, premature birth or miscarriage;
- Pregnant women with gonorrhea can pass the disease on to the child during childbirth. If this goes unnoticed, it can lead to blindness in the child.
Gonorrhea symptoms in men:
- ‘Leaking’: a lot of pus-like discharge from the urethra, which is yellow or green in colour;
- If the gonorrhea bacterium moves further inside: prostatitis or inflammation in the scrotum later on. Fertility is also reduced.
How is gonorrhea spread?
Gonorrhea is only passed on through intimate physical contact. So you can't get it from a dirty toilet seat, drinking from someone else's glass or using a towel.
However, the STD can be transmitted through all forms of unprotected sex, including anal and oral sex and even on the fingers, for example if you have touched an infected genital area.
If you want to prevent infection with gonorrhea, always use a condom and use a dental dam during oral sex. Pay attention to hygiene, do not exchange sex toys during sex and use a new condom as soon as you switch between anal sex and vaginal sex.
Testing for gonorrhea
Gonorrhea symptoms resemble the symptoms of other conditions, such as chlamydia or a bladder infection. That is why it is important to have an STD test done immediately if you are experiencing gonorrhea symptoms. Gonorrhea testing is advisable even if you are not experiencing any symptoms, but have had unprotected sex. Always do an STD test if you learn that a (former) sexual partner has become infected with gonorrhea or another STD.
You can go to your GP for an STD test. A doctor will be able to make the correct diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment. For a gonorrhea test, the doctor will need to take a sample of urine (only in men) or a 'swab' (a little mucus from the vagina, throat, urethra or anus). The sample will then be examined for the presence of the gonorrhea bacteria.
Self-tests are also available if you wish to diagnose a gonorrhea infection anonymously. If the result of your gonorrhea test is negative but you continue to experience symptoms you should consult a doctor.
If the result is positive, seek treatment immediately. Never delay gonorrhea treatment, even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms (yet)!
Take the gonorrhea incubation period into account
Please note: testing for gonorrhea is only reliable 3 weeks after the infection. The gonorrhea bacterium can only be detected after the 'gonorrhea incubation period' has elapsed. Make sure not to test too early to avoid a false negative result.
What to do if you have gonorrhea
If the test result shows that you are infected with gonorrhea, seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent the development of further complications. You must also inform your sexual partner(s) about the infection. If your partner is also infected, it is important that they also seek treatment to avoid the risk of serious symptoms.
If you have contracted an STD, there is a chance that you may also have another venereal disease. It is therefore wise to test yourself and your partner(s) for other STDs.
Antibiotics for gonorrhea
An infection with gonorrhea will not go away on its own, even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms. An STD is also not possible to self-treat with alternative medicines. Doctors fight the infection with antibiotics for gonorrhea. These drugs kill the gonorrhea bacteria so that the disease goes away.
Well-known gonorrhea drugs are:
- Quinolone antibiotics, which are usually prescribed as a one-day course. Examples include ciprofloxacin and ofloxacin;
- Tetracycline antibiotics, e.g. doxycycline and minocycline;
- Macrolide antibiotics, e.g. azithromycin;
- Sulphonamide-type antibiotics. For example, a combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole;
- Cephalosporin antibiotics. E.g. ceftriaxone;
- Penicillin antibiotics, such as amoxicillin.
If you are undergoing gonorrhea treatment, there are a number of things you should take into account:
- Medicines against gonorrhea can have side effects. Known side effects of antibiotics for gonorrhea include gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and dizziness. Read the patient information leaflet before use. It contains everything you need to know about the use of the medicine, all possible side effects and other warnings;
- You must always complete the full course of treatment, even if symptoms have already decreased or if you are no longer experiencing any symptoms at all. If you stop treatment too early, bacteria can remain in the body and the disease can return;
- If you continue to experience symptoms following the full course of treatment, consult a doctor, you may need a different medicine. Sometimes the gonorrhea bacterium is resistant to certain antibiotics;
- You are still at risk of spreading the STD until the infection is completely cured, so avoid having sex until your full course of treatment has been successfully completed. Patients are often advised to wait 1 week after treatment has ended to have intimate physical contact. Following treatment, always practice safe sex to prevent a new STD infection.
Do you have any questions about the gonorrhea treatment or about gonorrhea in general? A doctor or pharmacist will be happy to help you.
Gonorrhea Prescription Drugs
Many drugs for gonorrhea require a prescription. You can request a suitable course of treatment at Dokteronline. Your application will be assessed by a doctor based on the medical questionnaire you have completed. A written prescription will then be forwarded to a pharmacy, after which the prescribed medication will be discreetly delivered to your home.
Do you have questions about gonorrhea or gonorrhea treatment? Please consult a doctor or pharmacist.