Health A-Z


Clinical Definition

Gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted infection (STI), is a bacterial infection that affects both men and women. Left untreated, in women it can spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes, triggering pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and an increased risk of tubal pregnancies; in men, it can contribute to epididymitis and sometimes scarring and infertility. If gonorrhea spreads to other areas of the body, it can lead to swollen, painful joints, cardiac valve damage and neurological damage. Treatment is with antibiotics.

In Our Own Words

Gonorrhea, known also as the clap or drip, is a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI).  It can be transmitted from an infected person to a healthy one during vaginal, oral or anal sex. The infection often affects the women’s cervix, the opening from the vagina to the womb. In men, the infection usually starts in the urine-carrying tube, the urethra.

Symptoms in men may include a burning sensation when urinating or a discharge form the penis, or no symptoms at all. Most women do not notice any symptoms. Untreated, gonorrhea can increase the risk of HIV transmission. In women, gonorrhea can also lead to serious complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, in turn possibly leading to chronic pelvic pain and infertility. In men, the infection can also lead to infertility, but less commonly than in women. Infection can also cause joint problems, brain damage and heart valve problems. Antibiotics are the treatment, and infected individuals must alert their partners.

Symptoms and Side Effects

  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Unusual penal discharge
  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
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