Q. What is gonorrhea? ("gon-o-ree-a")

A. Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). This means that it is a disease that you get by having sex with someone who already has gonorrhea. The disease is caused by bacteria. Gonorrhea may infect the cervix (mouth of the womb), urethra, mouth, or rectum. It can be treated and cured by antibiotics. However, taking antibiotics will not protect you from getting gonorrhea again.

Q. What are the signs of gonorrhea?

A. Most women with gonorrhea have no signs of the disease. Some women may have the following signs:

1. Pain or burning during urination,
2. Vaginal discharge,
3. Stomach and pelvic pain,
4. Bleeding between periods,
5. Throwing up,
6. Fever,
7. Discharge from the rectum,
8. Itching around the rectum,
9. Painful bowel movements.

Q. How is gonorrhea treated?

A. Antibiotic medicines (medicines that kill bacteria) are used to treat gonorrhea. Some antibiotics no longer work to cure gonorrhea, so doctors are using new antibiotics to treat this disease. People who have sex with someone infected with gonorrhea should be tested and treated for the disease even if they don't have any signs.

Q. What happens if gonorrhea isn't treated?

A. If gonorrhea is not treated, the bacteria can move into the bloodstream and infect your reproductive organs, joints, heart valves, and brain. The most common problem from untreated gonorrhea is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection of a woman's uterus, ovaries, and/or fallopian tubes that can cause infertility (not being able to get pregnant) and ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus). About one million women get PID each year in the United States.

You should get regular check-ups for gonorrhea and other STDs if you have sex with more than one person. Get a check-up even if you don't have signs of an STD.

Q. Can gonorrhea cause problems during pregnancy?

A. Yes. A pregnant woman can pass gonorrhea to her baby during delivery. Most doctors say that babies must be treated with silver nitrate or other medicine to keep them from getting gonorrhea in the eyes, which can cause blindness. Doctors say that all pregnant women should be tested for gonorrhea. Pregnant women who have gonorrhea need to talk to their doctor about what medicines are safe to take during pregnancy.

Q. How can I keep from getting gonorrhea?

A. Here are ways to keep from getting gonorrhea:

  1. Do not have sex (intercourse, oral, or anal); and
  2. If you have sex:
    • use a condom (also use a condom for oral and anal sex);
    • have sex with only one uninfected person - do not have multiple partners
    • ask your sex partner(s) if he or she has gonorrhea or other STDs, has had sex with someone who has an STD, or has sores, rashes, or discharge in the genital area.

Q. How can I take care of others and myself if I have gonorrhea?

A. Here's how you can take care of yourself and others:

1. Take all your medicine.
2. Tell your sex partner(s) about your infection so that they can be tested and treated right away.
3. Do not have sex when you are getting treatment for gonorrhea.
4. Use a condom when you have sex after being treated for gonorrhea.

For More Information...

You can find out more about gonorrhea by contacting the National Women's Health Information Center (800-994-9662) or the following organizations:

CDC National STD Hotline
Phone: (800) 227-8922
Internet Address: http://www.ashastd.org/std/stdhotln.html

CDC National Prevention Information Network
Phone: (800) 458-5231
Internet: http://www.cdcnpin.org

National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention
Phone: 888-232-3228 (Information Line)
Internet Address: http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/nchstp.html