Gonorrhea is the second most prevalent sexually transmitted bacterial infection, following chlamydia. This disease can affect both men and women, but women are generally more susceptible, as it often presents without noticeable symptoms.

The absence of symptoms in many cases makes early diagnosis challenging, which can lead to further spread of the infection and increased health complications associated with gonorrhea, such as:

  • Tubal issues
  • Infertility
  • Risk of ectopic pregnancy

How can it be diagnosed promptly, and what signs should not be overlooked as warning signals? 

What Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can affect:

  • The urethral tract in men 
  • The urogenital tract in women

The bacterium thrives and replicates in warm and moist environments, making the female genitalia and urethra (in both women and men) ideal environments for its growth.

Unlike certain diseases, individuals can become reinfected with the same strain of bacteria even after successfully overcoming a previous infection.

How is gonorrhea transmitted?

Gonorrhea is primarily transmitted through sexual contact. It can be contracted:

  • Through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse 
  • A kiss
  • Saliva

Additionally, during childbirth, a mother can pass gonorrhea on to her child.

It is crucial to emphasize implementing preventive measures during childbirth to minimize the risk of complications, as gonorrhea can potentially cause severe issues for the newborn, including neonatal blindness. 

What Are the Symptoms of Gonorrhea? 

The symptoms of gonorrhea vary between men and women. In approximately 50 percent of cases, women may experience no symptoms, while in men, the rate of asymptomatic cases is around 20 percent.

When symptoms do occur in women, they may include: 

  • Pain and burning sensation during urination
  • Itching in the genital area
  • Oral infections, such as pharyngitis and tonsillitis
  • Fertility problems
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Bleeding between periods

It is worth noting that symptoms in women are often transient, which can lead patients to underestimate or dismiss them.

Gonorrhea: Which Tests Are Used for Diagnosis?

To diagnose gonorrhea, laboratory tests are employed. Samples are collected using swabs from the most commonly affected areas of the body, such as:

  • Cervix
  • Urethra
  • Rectum
  • Pharynx 

The collected samples can be examined through direct microscopy – where the bacterium is observed under a microscope. Alternatively, a culture examination can be performed, meaning that the samples are cultured in a laboratory to facilitate the growth and identification of the bacterium.

How Is Gonorrhea Treated?

Gonorrhea is typically treated with antibiotics. Treatment should also be provided to the partner to prevent reinfection and further spread of the infection.

If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to severe complications. In 10-20% of cases, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is associated with infertility in couples and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. 

Although less common, potential complications may include:

  • Migratory polyarthritis
  • Hepatitis
  • Endocarditis
  • Meningitis

These conditions are caused by the bloodstream dissemination of the bacterium.