Gonorrhea, also known as “the clap”, is the second most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world after chlamydia. It is contracted by both men and women but is more common in women.
Symptoms of gonorrhea in females are often so mild that most are unaware of being infected, but when left untreated gonorrhea can result in serious and long-term health issues.
Read on, to learn more about gonorrhea symptoms, causes, and treatment, in addition to a few natural remedies for better vaginal health.
Symptoms of gonorrhea present differently for males and females, with women far less likely to notice any indicators. Women showing symptoms of gonorrhea when tested, for example, range from 20-75%, but more than 95% of men tested are experiencing obvious symptoms.
When women do develop symptoms of gonorrhea they are often mild and mistaken for another type of infection like vaginitis. The most frequent symptoms of gonorrhea for women include:
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Itchy genitals
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in the color or odor of vaginal discharge
- Spotting between periods
- Pain during sex
While some men are also infected with gonorrhea without developing any symptoms, a large majority notice indicators that something is not right within two weeks of contracting the infection. These include:
- Swollen testicles
- Yellow or green discharge from the penis
- A burning sensation when peeing
Both men and women can also experience symptoms of gonorrhea in the rectum, including, bleeding and discharge from the rectum, itching around the anus, and pain while passing a stool. Additionally, even though gonorrhea mostly affects the urethra and rectum, it can infect the throat and the eyes too, but this is considered rare.
Those with gonorrhea in the throat typically suffer from a long-term itchy or sore throat, as well as discomfort when swallowing. Symptoms of gonorrhea in the eyes include itchy and swollen eyelids, in addition to a pus-like discharge from the eyes that appears similar to conjunctivitis.
That said, gonorrhea is frequently asymptomatic for women, so if you notice your male partner complaining of any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is advisable to refrain from intercourse until you have both been tested for STIs.
What Causes Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is caused by bacteria called Neisseria Gonorrhoeae and is spread through sexual contact with or without ejaculation occurring. It is not possible to spread or contract gonorrhea through non-sexual contact like kissing, cuddling, or holding hands.
Nor is it possible to get gonorrhea from toilet seats, sharing food, the same cups, or cutlery. Gonorrhea is transmitted through sexual contact such as:
- Penetrative vaginal sex
- Anal sex
- Oral sex
Infected pregnant women can also pass on gonorrhea to their babies during vaginal delivery, however, because it is typically the genitals that are infected, babies born by C-section are not infected by a mother with gonorrhea. If left untreated, gonorrhea has been known to cause miscarriages and premature births.
Is Gonorrhea Common?
Yes, it is. Gonorrhea is the second most common STI after chlamydia. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 82.4 million people were newly diagnosed with gonorrhea in 2020, 50% of which were young people aged between 15-24.
How Is Gonorrhea Diagnosed?
A trip to your healthcare practitioner or doctor’s clinic was previously necessary to test for gonorrhea, however, these days, home testing kits are available online and from most pharmacies. Doctors will swab the areas that are commonly infected including the vagina, rectum, throat, or eyes, and send the swabs, along with a urine sample, to a lab for testing.
Home testing kits for gonorrhea are similar in that you swab the possibly infected areas yourself and send the results to a lab for testing. In either case, results are normally returned within a few days.
How Is Gonorrhea Treated?
Once your doctor has confirmed you have gonorrhea, they will prescribe either one or two antibitotics as treatment, depending on the strain of gonorrhea found in your swabs.
The next step is to notify your recent sexual partners and ensure they are tested and treated to avoid the infection being spread to others, or reinfecting you once you have recovered.
It is also important to complete each course of antibiotics, even when you begin to feel better, and to refrain from sex until treatment is finished.
As soon as the course of antibiotics is completed, the infection is usually cleared, but your doctor may ask you to do a second test a few months later to ensure the infection has completely cleared.
Essentially, gonorrhea is cured with antibiotic treatment, but that does not mean that it won’t return. To prevent all STIs, including gonorrhea, use condoms with any new, untested partners.
Gonorrhea - Natural Remedies to Relieve Symptoms
To cure STIs like gonorrhea, antibiotic treatment is always required, however, some natural remedies for women are recommended to prevent gonorrhea from occurring and help recovery when it does.
Probiotics, for example, are very helpful in re-balancing the vaginal pH after infection as well as maintaining it afterward to keep any future infections at bay. Here at Intimate Rose, we’ve added cranberry and D-Mannose to our Women's Probiotic Supplement which make it even more difficult for vaginal infections to set in.
Boric Acid Suppositories also come highly recommended by female health experts. When taken together with antibiotics for vaginal infections like gonorrhea, it helps to quickly relieve itching, as well as burning during urination and promotes the perfect acid balance within the vagina to kill the harmful bacteria.
Lastly, it might seem like a good idea to flush out your vagina with synthetic hygiene products, but douching is doing more harm than good by removing the good bacteria along with the harmful bacteria. Instead of douching, wash your genitals daily with warm water and unscented soap and pat dry to prevent any irritation from rubbing.
Gonorrhea Left Untreated
Unfortunately, gonorrhea is often left untreated because the majority of people are unaware that they have been infected. It is therefore vitally important that people who are sexually active with more than one partner are tested at least once a year for STIs.
Although an untreated case of gonorrhea will adversely affect both men and women, the long-term symptoms for women are considered more severe. These include:
- Blocked fallopian tubes
- Ectopic pregnancies
- Lowered immune system
- Increased risk of getting other STIs
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Heightened risk of contracting HIV
How To Prevent Gonorrhea
The only sure way to prevent getting gonorrhea is to insist that both you and any new sexual partners are tested for STIs before having intercourse. Although condoms are advised as a protective barrier to STIs, they are not 100% secure because they can easily split or tear.
According to the CDC, an increased risk of contracting gonorrhea exists for people aged 15-24, those of any age who have multiple sexual partners, and individuals who have previously had another STI (including gonorrhea). If you are one of these people, always use condoms during intercourse and schedule regular tests for STIs.
Although many women experience no symptoms of gonorrhea, it is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections globally and can cause long-term health complications if left untreated.
If you think you or one of your recent sexual partners are infected, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider, or buy a home STI testing kit. The sooner gonorrhea is diagnosed and treated the better chance women have of preventing long-term health issues.
Cleveland Clinic – Gonorrhea - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4217-gonorrhea
Centers For Disease Control & Prevention – Gonorrhea Statistics - https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stats.htm
American Society For Microbiology - Analysis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae during Natural Infection Reveals Differential Expression of Antibiotic Resistance Determinants between Men and Women - https://journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/mSphereDirect.00312-18
World Health Organization - Gonorrhoea: latest antimicrobial global surveillance results and guidance for vaccine development published - https://www.who.int/news/item/22-11-2021-gonorrhoea-antimicrobial-resistance-results-and-guidance-vaccine-development
World Health Organization – Multi-Drug Resistant Gonorrhea - https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/multi-drug-resistant-gonorrhoea