Gonorrhea: What Symptoms Should Women Look For?

Gonorrhea: What Symptoms Should Women Look For?

One of the most common sexually transmitted infections a person can be diagnosed with is gonorrhea.

The disease is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. The problem is that gonorrhea has no immediate outward symptoms, which means people spread it without even realizing it.

The disease is primarily affecting people in their teens and 20s, but when diagnosed, people can use antibiotic treatments to clear up the infection. If left untreated, the bacteria can lead to other health issues and infertility.

Female Symptoms of Gonorrhea

The majority of women don’t know they have gonorrhea because they have no symptoms when they contract it. And, it can take up to seven days after the initial infection to show any symptoms. What are these symptoms?

  • Vaginal Discharge – A gonorrhea infection produces a yellowish vaginal discharge that’s more frequent.
  • Anal Discharge – Much like vaginal discharge, gonorrhea’s anal discharge is also yellow and appear pus-like.
  • Vaginal Bleeding – Gonorrhea could cause women to bleed when they’re not having their period. If it happened after having sex, it’s important to see a gynecologist to determine if they have an infection.
  • Bloody Stools – It’s not uncommon to have bloody stools when straining to poop. However, it’s also a sign that women could have gonorrhea.
  • Sexual Intercourse Is Painful - Painful sex or an increase in discomfort when having sex may also be a sign of gonorrhea.
  • Lower Stomach Pain – This pain tends to begin in the pelvis and spreads to the abdomen when not treated. It can lead to nausea and vomiting in more serious cases.
  • Itchy Anus – Women who partake in anal sex could experience an itchy anus if they have a gonorrhea infection, especially if the itching occurs with any other gonorrhea symptom.

Gonorrhea Can Affect Other Parts Of The Body

While most symptoms of this STD occurs in the vaginal and rectal regions, they can also affect the joints, eyes and throat. For example, gonorrhea in the throat may start off mild, which is why most people would mistake it for a simple sore throat. However, over time, it can affect the lymph nodes, making them swell. If gonorrhea spreads to the eyes, a person could experience discharge, pain and light sensitivity.

The gonorrhea bacteria can cause septic arthritis – a condition that affects the joints. This is a rare but serious symptom and could cause major health problems for sufferers.

How Does One Catch Gonorrhea?

Both men and women catch gonorrhea by not practicing safe sex. The bacteria can be spread through pre-ejaculation fluid and semen but is also seen in the vaginal fluids, genitals, anus and mouth.

The key ways to spread gonorrhea is through vaginal, anal and oral sex. It can even be spread without full vaginal or anal penetration. If the bacteria is on your hands, you could spread it to your eyes if you touch them.

Gonorrhea cannot be spread via casual contact, which means holding hands, sharing food, hugging or kissing a person with it is perfectly safe. If an infected person sneezes your direction, you can’t catch it.

How Do Doctors Treat Women With Gonorrhea

Women who have been diagnosed with gonorrhea will be prescribed an antibiotic treatment, which they need to take completely even if the symptoms no longer persist. It’s also important for their partners to get tested to ensure they don’t have the infection and to get treated if they do to lessen the chance of re-infections.

Women are also advised not to have sex for a week after they complete the medication, and to be tested three months later to make sure there is no infection still lingering in the body. A person with gonorrhea once can have it again, which is why preventing the infection is so important. How can you prevent a gonorrhea infection?

  • Use condoms – It’s not fool-proof but can help mitigate the chance for the disease.
  • Watch for symptoms – Men tend to show gonorrhea symptoms, but women are less obvious. However, any signs of it mean you should not have sex until treatment is done.
  • Get tested It’s important to get screened for STDs regularly, especially if you’ve started a new relationship, have a new partner or suspect you were cheated on.
Mark Riegel, MD

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