Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Chicana and Chicano StudiesLatino Health Issues




Pelvic Inflammatory Disease



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What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix (opening to the womb), uterus (womb), and fallopian tubes (egg canals) in women, and in the urethra (urine canal) in women and men. The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus ( 9 ).

How does one contract Gonorrhea and how is it diagnosed?

Gonorrhea is spread through contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus. Gonorrhea can also be spread from mother to baby during delivery.

Diagnosis of gonorrhea involves clinical inspection of the genitals by a doctor. A doctor or nurse can obtain a sample for testing from the parts of the body likely to be infected ( cervix, urethra, rectum, or throat) and send the sample to a laboratory for analysis. Gonorrhea that is present in the cervix or urethra can be diagnosed in a laboratory by testing a urine sample. An examination of the specimen under a microscope is then followed ( 10).

What are the signs and symptoms?

The symptoms of gonorrhea are mild and most women who are infected have no symptoms. Easily mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection, the signs include painful or burning sensation when urinating, increased vaginal discharge, and vaginal bleeding between periods.

Symptoms of rectal infection in both men and women may include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements. Rectal infection also may cause no symptoms. Infections in the throat may cause a sore throat but usually causes no symptoms ( 9 ).

What are the complications and how will it affect pregnancy?

Gonorrhea is a common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) . About one million women each year in the United States develop PID. Women with PID do not necessarily have symptoms. When symptoms are present, they can be very severe and can include abdominal pain and fever. PID can lead to internal abscesses (pus-filled ˇ°pocketsˇ± that are hard to cure) and long-lasting, chronic pelvic pain. PID can damage the fallopian tubes enough to cause infertility or increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition in which a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube ( 5 ).

If a pregnant woman has gonorrhea, she may give the infection to her baby as the baby passes through the birth canal during delivery. Treatment of gonorrhea as soon as it is detected in pregnant women will reduce the risk of these complications ( 6 ).

What are the treatments and prevention methods against gonorrhea?

Several antibiotics can cure gonorrhea in young adults and adults.

Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics. A single dose of ciprofloxacin or a week of Doxycycline (twice daily) are the most commonly used treatments ( 10 ).

The best way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain from sexual contact. Also, being in a long-term monogamous relationship, that is, only have sex with one person who only has sex with you.

Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of gonorrhea ( 2 ).

Any genital symptoms such as discharge or burning during urination or unusual sore or rash should be a signal to stop having sex and to see a doctor immediately. If a person has been diagnosed and treated for gonorrhea, he or she should notify all recent sex partners so they can see a health care provider and be treated. This will reduce the risk that the sex partners will develop serious complications from gonorrhea and will also reduce the person's risk of becoming re-infected. The person and all of her sex partners must avoid sex until they have completed their treatment for gonorrhea( 8 ).


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