Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium (a germ) Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhea infection is on the increase in New Brunswick.

What are the symptoms?

It usually takes two to seven days for symptoms to appear. Some people do not have symptoms. If they do appear, symptoms may include:

In women:

  • Unusual discharge from the vagina;
  • Burning feeling when urinating;
  • Vaginal bleeding after sex; and,
  • Lower abdominal (belly) pain.

In Men:

  • Creamy white and yellow discharge from the penis; and,
  • Burning or pain when urinating.

How is the infection spread?

Gonorrhea is easily spread from one person to another by having unprotected vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner. It can also be spread by oral sex. It can be passed from mother to child during childbirth.

How is gonorrhea diagnosed?

Your health-care provider will diagnose gonorrhea based on your sexual history symptoms and the performance of special tests. Several tests are available for gonorrhea; the most common one is done on a sample of urine. A swab from the cervix (in females) or urethra (in males) may also be used. Depending on the site of infection, swabs from throat, rectum or eyes may also be needed. If you are infected with gonorrhea, you may also be tested for other sexually transmitted infections.

How is gonorrhea treated?

  • Gonorrhea can be cured. It is treated with an antibiotic taken by mouth. The persons with whom you have sex within the last two months must also be tested and treated, whether they have symptoms or not.
  • You and your partner(s) should not have unprotected sex for seven (7) days after starting the treatment.
  • Take all the pills exactly as instructed.
  • If you are treated for gonorrhea, you may also be treated for chlamydia.
  • Having a gonorrhea infection once does not prevent you from getting infected again.  

What happens if gonorrhea is left untreated?

In women:

Untreated gonorrhea can spread to reproductive organs and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is a serious infection of the uterus (womb), fallopian tubes, and ovaries, causing lower abdominal pain. It can lead to ectopic pregnancy (where the egg implants itself outside the cavity of the womb) and infertility (the inability to have children).

In men,

Untreated gonorrhea can cause swelling and pain in the testicles. It can also lead to reduced fertility (harder to have children) or sterility (inability to have children).

In both men and women,

Untreated gonorrhea can cause joint, skin problems and widespread infection in bloodstream. A pregnant woman could pass gonorrhea to her baby during childbirth, which could cause an eye infection. This may lead to blindness if the baby is not well treated.

Who is at higher risk of getting gonorrhea?

You are at higher risk of getting gonorrhea if you:

  • Are younger than 25 and sexually active with many partners;
  • Have unprotected sex (vaginal, oral or anal) with an infected partner;
  • Have sex with a sex worker
  • Have sex with a partner coming from a country where gonorrhea is frequent;
  • Are a man having unprotected sex with men
  • Have ever had gonorrhea or other STI;
  • Are a street-involved youth.

How can gonorrhea be prevented?

If you are sexually active, you may lower the risk of getting gonorrhea by:

  • Limiting your number of sexual partners;
  • Knowing you sexual partner’s history;
  • Having protected sex – condoms and dental dams offer good protection against gonorrhea but they must be used properly. Condoms should be used for vaginal and anal sex. A dental dam is a thin square of latex that should be used during oral sex. Dental dams can be bought in some stores, or you can make your own using a condom or a latex glove; and,
  • Having regular STI check-ups.