Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium. Gonorrhea is spread through sexual contact (vaginal, oral, or anal). The organism can grow easily in mucous membranes of the body, including the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes in women, and the urethra, mouth, throat, and rectum in women and men. It can also invade the conjunctiva (e.g., during childbirth). Each year approximately 650,000 persons in the United States get gonorrhea. Approximately 75 percent of gonorrhea cases are found in persons age fifteen to twenty-nine years. About 50 percent of men have some initial symptoms, typically a burning sensation when urinating and a discharge from the penis. Many infected women are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms. Initial symptoms include a painful or burning sensation when urinating and a vaginal discharge that is yellow or bloody. Untreated gonorrhea in women can develop into pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause infertility or increase the future risk of ectopic pregnancy. An infected pregnant woman can transmit the infection to her newborn during vaginal delivery.
N. gonorrhoeae in the male or female genital tract can be diagnosed in a laboratory using a urine specimen. Many of the currently used antibiotics can successfully cure gonorrhea. Persons who engage in sexual behaviors that place them at risk of STDs should use latex or polyurethane condoms every time they have sex, limit the number of sex partners, and not go back and forth between partners. All young, sexually active, nonmonogamous persons who do not use condoms every time they have sex should consider being screened for gonorrhea yearly. Infected persons should notify all sex partners so they can receive treatment.
ALLISON L. GREENSPAN
JOEL R. GREENSPAN
(SEE ALSO: Sexually Transmitted Diseases)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1998). "1998 Guidelines for Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Diseases." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 47(RR-1):59–70.
Hook, E. W., III, and Handsfield, H. H. (1999). "Gonococcal Infections in the Adult." In Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 3rd edition, eds. K. Holmes, P. Mardh, P. Sparling et al. New York: McGraw-Hill.