Gonorrhea: Symptoms, Treatment and Complications


Gonorrhea is a highly contagious sexually transmitted bacterial infection, sometimes referred to as the clap. The nickname refers to the previous treatment to clear the blockage in the urethra from gonorrhea pus, where the penis would be ‘clapped’ on both sides simultaneously. Although this treatment is not used anymore, gonorrhea remains characterized by thick discharge from the penis or vagina. The bacterium called Neisseria Gonorrhea is that which infects the rectum, throat, eyes, blood, skin, or joints.

How is it transmitted?

Gonorrhea spreads through semen or vaginal fluids during unprotected sex (virginal, anal, or oral sex). It is less commonly transmitted by sharing sex toys or touching parts of the body with fingers.

It trends to infect warm, moist areas of the body, like the urethra, eyes, throat, vagina, anus, and the female reproductive tract.

Even though it is spread through sex, gonorrhea can be transmitted by very close physical contact from hand-to-hand or from a mother to her baby at birth.

But you cannot be infected by sharing baths, towels, cups, or kissing as well as using toilet seats.


There is normally no symptoms in the first 2 weeks of infection. To make it worse, 1 out of 2 women and 1 out of 10 men will have no symptoms at all.

Women’s symptoms can include a strong smelling discharge from the vagina that can vary from being a thin watery to a yellow greenish in color. Other symptoms can be frequent urination, pain or burning sensation when urinating sometimes with nausea, and pain between periods.

Men are most likely to experience pain during urination and ejection from the penis as first signs of the infection. That is since the penis can be inflamed and the prostate gland and the testicles can be irritated. There might also be a thick white, yellow or green discharge at the tip of the penis. Men might also show symptoms of an irritation or discharge from the anus. As for a throat infection, there is rarely gonorrhea symptoms that show up.

Other general symptoms can include:

  • Need to urinate more often
  • Sore throat
  • Painful sex
  • Sharp pain in the lower abdomen
  • Fever

The infection can remain in the body for a few weeks after treatment. If serious, the infection can cause damage to the urethra and testicles.


A swab test is done by collecting fluid from the vagina and penis. This might be uncomfortable. Or a swab can be taken from the entrance to the womb, or the urethra. As well as the throat or rectum. Alternatively, a urine test can be done. Women can also opt for an internal examination.


Early treatment can be easy and effective. The disease is treated with a single dose of Azithromycin taken orally or an antibiotic injection of Cefltriazone in the buttocks.

As the strains of gonorrhea are becoming more antibiotic-resistant it might means a 7-day course of antibiotic treatment might be needed.

As it is common to have chlamydia with gonorrhea it is wise to test for both and have both treated at the same time. And during treatment, sex should be avoided.


If gonorrhea is not treatment it can spread through the bloodstream affecting other parts of the body. The complications if untreated leaves woman to a greater risk. Women can develop a condition known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

This can cause severe and chronic pain and damage the female reproductive organs. This can lead to a reduced fertility or infertility long-term pelvic pain. Other complications include life-threatening problems like ectopic pregnancy where the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, or blocked fallopian tubes.

Gonorrhea infection may pass to a new born baby during delivery.

For men the complications can include painful inflammation of the testicles. Other complications include scarring of the urethra. Also men can develop a painful abscess inside the penis. This can lead to reduced fertility or sterility.

A general complication for both men and women is the possibility to develop arthritis, brain damage, spinal cord damage and even heart disease.


Young people are generally at a higher risk. It is advisable to make use of protective sex. Condoms do act as a protection barrier against the gonorrhea bacteria. However a spermicide will not prevent a person from being infected with this disease.

It should also be mentioned that abstaining from sex till after treatment has been done is important. But also that the other partners be treated as well as stop reinfections.


View this video for more details about gonorrhea: