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Gonorrhea (cont.)

What Increases Your Risk

Risk factors for getting gonorrhea include:

  • Having multiple sex partners (more than one sex partner in the past year).
  • Having a high-risk partner (partner has other sex partners, unprotected sex, or gonorrhea-infected sex partners).
  • Having unprotected sexual contact (not using condoms).

Any child with gonorrhea needs to be evaluated by a doctor to find out the cause and to assess for possible sexual abuse.

When To Call a Doctor

Gonorrhea causes no long-term problems if it is treated early in the course of the infection before any complications develop. Untreated gonorrhea can lead to many complications.

In women:

Call your doctor immediately if you have the following symptoms.

  • Sudden, severe pain in the lower belly
  • Lower belly pain with vaginal bleeding or discharge and a fever of 100°F (38°C) or higher
  • Urinary burning, frequent urination, or inability to urinate and a fever of 100°F (38°C) or higher

Call your doctor to find out when an evaluation is needed if you have the following symptoms.

  • Vaginal discharge that has become yellowish, thicker, or bad-smelling
  • Bleeding between periods that occurs more than once when periods are usually regular
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Sores, bumps, rashes, blisters, or warts on or around the genital or anal area
  • Anal itching, discomfort, bleeding, or discharge.
  • Burning, pain, or itching with urination or frequent urination lasting longer than 24 hours
  • Pelvic or lower belly pain that occurs without a known cause, such as diarrhea or menstrual cramps
  • Pinkeye (conjunctivitis)

Call your doctor or clinic if you have unprotected sex with someone who has, or who you think may have, a sexually transmitted infection.

In men:

Call your doctor immediately if you have the following symptoms.

  • Discharge from the penis and a fever of 100°F (38°C) or higher
  • Urinary burning, frequent urination, or inability to urinate and a fever of 100°F (38°C) or higher
  • Pain, swelling, or tenderness in the scrotum and a fever of 100°F (38°C) or higher

Call your doctor to find out when an evaluation is needed if you have the following symptoms.

  • Sores, bumps, rashes, blisters, or warts on or around the genital or anal areas
  • Burning, pain, or itching with urination or frequent urination lasting longer than 24 hours
  • Suspected exposure to a sexually transmitted infection
  • Abnormal discharge from the penis
  • Pinkeye (conjunctivitis)
  • Anal itching, discomfort, bleeding, or discharge.

Call your doctor or clinic if you have unprotected sex with someone who has, or who you think may have, a sexually transmitted infection.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a period of time during which you and your doctor observe your symptoms or condition without using medical treatment. Watchful waiting is not appropriate for a gonorrhea infection. Gonorrhea causes no long-term problems if it is treated early in the course of the infection before any complications develop. But untreated gonorrhea can lead to many complications. Avoid sexual contact until you have been examined by your doctor so that you will not infect someone else.

If you know you have been exposed to gonorrhea, both you and your sex partner(s) must be treated. You need treatment even if you don't have symptoms.

You must notify anyone with whom you have had sex in the 60 days before noticing symptoms or being diagnosed, even if you used condoms during sexual contact. Even if you have not had sex for more than 60 days, your most recent sex partner must be treated.1

If you are unable to contact your sex partners or you are uncomfortable doing so, health departments and sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics can help with this process.

Who to see

Health professionals who can diagnose and treat gonorrhea include:

Low-cost diagnosis and treatment of gonorrhea is usually available at local health departments and family planning clinics, such as Planned Parenthood.

Some people are not comfortable seeing their usual doctor for sexually transmitted infection treatment. Most counties have confidential clinics for diagnosing and treating gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted infections.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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