Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that affects the urethra, rectum and throat of men and women. The Mayo Clinic says that gonorrhea can also impact the cervix. It is often spread through sexual contact or to an infant at birth from an infected mother. Gonorrhea can be prevented by abstaining from sex or by using a condom. The side effects of gonorrhea may vary between men and women.
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Male Side Effects
The American Social Health Association (ASHAS) at ASHASTD.org points out that men usually exhibit symptoms within two to five days after contracting the bacteria, but it can take as long as 30 days. Gonorrhea that has infected the genitals in a man can lead to pain when urinating, pus-like discharge from the tip of the penis and pain or swelling in one testicle.
If gonorrhea goes untreated it can lead to infertility in men. The Mayo Clinic indicates that this is the result of inflammation within the testicles, where sperm ducts are located.
Female Side Effects
ASHASTD.org points out that women do not exhibit symptoms as readily as men. They point out that women often mistake their symptoms for a bladder infection or other vaginal infection. Symptoms may appear within 10 days of an infection, if they appear at all. When gonorrhea affects the cervix or urethra in women, side effects are similar to the symptoms in men. The Mayo Clinic describes the side effects as an increase in vaginal discharge, pain when urinating, vaginal bleeding between periods, vaginal bleeding after intercourse, abdominal pain and/or pelvic pain.
Women can suffer from infertility if gonorrhea is not treated. The bacterium can spread to the uterus and Fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). The Mayo Clinic explains that PID can lead to scarring of the Fallopian tubes, causing pregnancy complications and infertility. PID also causes abdominal pain, backache, menstrual period irregularities, pain during sex and unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge.
Other Side Effects
Gonorrhea can affect the rectum. It can be transmitted by both anal sex and contact with body fluids from vaginal or oral sex. The Mayo Clinic points out that symptoms include itching of the anus, pus-like discharge from the rectum, spots of bright red blood on toilet tissue and/or straining to have a bowel movement.
Infants and adults may experience gonorrhea infection of the eyes. The signs of infection include eye pain, pus-like discharge from the eyes and sensitivity to light.
Side effects of gonorrhea of the throat include a sore throat and/or swollen glands in the neck.
Any individual who contracts gonorrhea and does not seek proper treatment can experience complications. The Mayo Clinic says that the bacterial infection can spread to other parts of the body, including the joints. This can cause a fever, rash, skin sores, joint pain, swelling and stiffness. The Mayo Clinic also says that having gonorrhea makes individuals more susceptible to infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Infants who contract gonorrhea at birth can suffer from blindness, sores on the scalp and other infections.