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Anonymous on August 8, 2011

How do you catch gonorrhea and how do you know if you have it? What are the treatments?

I’m looking for information about gonorrhea. How do you get it? How long does it take for gonorrhea symptoms to show? What are the treatments? How long does it take to cure it and does it recur?

answered by
Lisa Oldson, MD on August 8, 2011

Thanks for your relevant questions about gonorrhea. I’ll do my best to answer your questions but if you're concerned that you may have gonorrhea, I encourage you to visit your doctor for further information, testing and treatment if necessary.

First, gonorrhea is a common STD...did you know that more than 700,000 Americans are diagnosed with gonorrhea every year? Gonorrhea can be caught from another person who has gonorrhea during unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. Also be aware that this bacterial infection spreads easily...so if you have it, your partner may as well.

Regarding symptoms, gonorrhea is “silent” most of the time. That is, many people who have gonorrhea don't know it because there aren’t always obvious signs or symptoms of the infection.

However, symptoms in women can include vaginal itching or abnormal discharge, vaginal bleeding or spotting, burning or discomfort during or at the end of urination, anal itching or discharge, and pain with bowel movements.

In men, the most common symptoms are painful urination, a discharge from the penis, and pain or swelling in one testicle. In both men and women, gonorrhea of the throat can also cause symptoms of sore throat and swollen glands.

The good news is that gonorrhea is easily treatable and curable. After someone is diagnosed with gonorrhea after testing, gonorrhea can typically be cured with a single oral dose of antibiotics.

But be forewarned, gonorrhea can recur. Once a person with gonorrhea has been treated, the infection should clear in a week...but re-infection is possible. To safeguard against re-infection, it’s important to practice safer sex (use condoms) and make sure one's partner is notified, tested and treated.

Getting tested is the only way to know you if you have gonorrhea...if you’re positive, you can move forward with treatment and avoid any potential long-term health complications that can result from an untreated gonorrhea infection.

Additionally, if you’re positive for gonorrhea, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you also get treated for chlamydia since people with gonorrhea are often co-infected with chlamydia. And remember, if you’re concerned about exposure to one STD, you might have been exposed to others...so it may be good idea to get tested for other common STDs, too. You can talk to your doctor about testing for STDs like herpes, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and HIV, or you can consult a reputable online testing clinic.

For more information about gonorrhea risk factors, symptoms, complications, testing and treatment, I encourage you to visit our Expert Guide to Gonorrhea.

I wish you good luck and good health!
 

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Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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