If you’re asking yourself, “how do I know if I have gonorrhea,” unfortunately, the answer may not be easy to find. Gonorrhea is one of the most common STDs in the US, with the CDC estimating 820,000 cases of gonorrhea annually. Reported cases of gonorrhea have gone up every year since 2015. Because gonorrhea is so common, and can exhibit no symptoms, it can be difficult to know if you have gonorrhea, but this article will address a few common questions about gonorrhea.
What is gonorrhea?
As stated above, gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted bacterial infection. Any sexually active person can be infected with gonorrhea. In the US, the CDC reports that nearly 70% of annual cases are among young people ages 15 to 24.
Gonorrhea is spread through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Ejaculation does not have to occur for gonorrhea to be transmitted or acquired. Gonorrhea can also be passed to babies during childbirth if the parent has the infection while pregnant.
While safer sex practices, such as condom use, can reduce your risk of contracting or passing gonorrhea to a partner, the best way to protect yourself against gonorrhea is to know your status by getting tested and make sure your partners have been recently tested and are STD free.
If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to more serious health issues. Untreated gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause infertility, long term pelvic and abdominal pain, formation of scar tissue in the fallopian tubes and ectopic pregnancy. Untreated gonorrhea can also cause inflammation of the prostate, an infection of the testicles, scarring of the urethra, in addition to sterility.
There is a cure for gonorrhea, but it can only be cured with medications prescribed by a doctor or testing center. Available antibiotics will cure gonorrhea 95-99% of the time; however, strains of gonorrhea are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. When undergoing treatment, it’s important to avoid any sexual interaction, and advise any current or former partners to get tested and treated, if necessary. After completing treatment, you should get tested again to make sure you’re cured and weren’t reinfected.
How do I know if I have gonorrhea symptoms?
Though gonorrhea is frequently asymptomatic, it can also present symptoms. Gonorrhea symptoms usually present 2-10 days after being infected, but could also take as long as a month to appear, if they appear at all.
Gonorrhea symptoms include:
- Painful urination
- Pain during sex
- Bleeding between menstrual cycles
- Yellowish or greenish discharge from the vagina or penis
Gonorrhea can also infect the eye or rectum, which can present different symptoms. Symptoms of eye infection often include burning, itching or discharge from the eye. Symptoms of rectal infection can include discharge, itching and painful bowel movements.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should get tested immediately. Even if you don’t have gonorrhea, these symptoms could be signs of a different STD or infection.
So, how do I know if I have gonorrhea?
Because gonorrhea can be asymptomatic, and symptomtoms of gonorrhea can look like symptoms of other infections, the only way to know if you have gonorrhea or not is to get tested. If you experience any symptoms that you think could be related to gonorrhea, you should get tested as soon as possible, and you should always get tested if you learn a partner or past partner has been diagnosed with gonorrhea. Getting tested regularly as a part of safer sex practices is key to knowing if you have gonorrhea and making sure you don’t spread it to your partners.