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Gonorrhea Risks & Complications

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How is gonorrhea transmitted?

Gonorrhea can be transmitted through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. Both men and women are susceptible to this common and often asymptomatic STD caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. Ejaculation does not have to occur in order for gonorrhea to be spread. You can contract gonorrhea from sharing sex toys. Gonorrhea can also be spread from a mother to her baby during childbirth.

Is gonorrhea preventable?

Abstaining from sexual intercourse is the best method to prevent getting or spreading gonorrhea. However, if you are sexually active, using latex or polyurethane condoms or dental dams, can help protect you and your partner from gonorrhea. Being in a long-term monogamous relationship can help reduce your chances of contracting gonorrhea or any other STDs, especially if you have gotten STD testing together.

What happens if gonorrhea is left untreated?

Complications, especially those affecting the reproductive system, in both men and women, can derive from an untreated gonorrhea infection. Since symptoms are not commonly displayed, screening for gonorrhea if you have had a recent unprotected sexual encounter is highly recommended by our doctors.

Most common untreated gonorrhea complications for men:

  • Infertility
  • Inflammation of the prostate
  • Scarred and narrowed urethra
  • Testicular or scrotal pain

Most common untreated gonorrhea complications for women

  • Infertility caused by PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
  • Ectopic (tubal) Pregnancy
  • Miscarriage
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Inflammation of the bladder

Importance of informing your partner you have gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a very contagious STD and if you tested positive, it is likely that your partner will as well. Telling your partner as soon as you confirm your diagnosis is important. It is recommended by the CDC that if you test positive for gonorrhea, you should inform anyone you have had sexual intercourse with within 60 days prior to diagnosis. This will reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others and will allow your sex partner or partners to get treated before developing complications. To avoid contracting gonorrhea again after treatment, make sure you and your partner have been retested before having intercourse again. Additionally, using condoms when intimately involved helps to prevent transmission.

If you are pregnant, get tested for gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can cause complications like miscarriage, ectopic (tubal) pregnancies, and the transmission of gonorrhea from mother to baby during pregnancy. According to the CDC, the baby's contraction of gonorrhea from the mother can lead to blindness, a serious joint infection, and/or a life-threatening blood infection. If you are pregnant, it is important to get tested for gonorrhea to eliminate any possible infections or dangerous health conditions.

Is there a relationship between gonorrhea and HIV?

Positive diagnosis for sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea increase your chance of acquiring or transmitting HIV. Conversely, the HIV virus weakens your immune system, increasing the likelihood of contracting gonorrhea. For this same reason, our 10-Test Panel tests for all common STDs. If you have been diagnosed with any STD, it is recommended to get tested for all sexually transmitted diseases.