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Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium gonococcus, which cannot survive outside the body and is transmitted only by sexual intercourse, and never (as is sometimes imagined) on toilet seats or towels.

In men:
  • the urethra along which urine passes from the bladder is infected
  • pain on urinating
  • thick discharge from the penis within a week after infection
In homosexual men:
  • the rectum may be infected
  • irritation and discharge from the anus
In women:
  • the cervix, urethra and rectum may be infected as with men
  • discharge
  • pain on urinating
  • if infection spreads to the uterus there is a 10% chance that the fallopian tubes may be blocked causing sterility

Often there are no symptoms in either men or women.


The treatment for gonorrhea is usually a single dose of antibiotics such as penicillin, with a checkup afterwards to make sure the infection has cleared.

If gonorrhea is not diagnosed and treated serious complications can develop:

  • Men may suffer epididymitis (pain and swelling in the testicles)
  • women may suffer peritonitis (inflammation of the membranes of the abdomen).
Both sexes:
  • may develop gonococcal septicemia (an infection of the bloodstream with skin rashes and arthritis)
  • may be made sterile in serious cases

Pregnant women with gonorrhea may pass it on to their babies who can be born with gonococcal opthalmia (an acute inflammation of the eyes).

Click here for more information about Gonorrhea

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