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Gonorrhea is a disease caused by bacteria known as Neisseria gonorrheae. It is typically passed on through sexual intercourse, although a newborn baby can also catch the disease from its mother when it moves through the birth canal. The effects of gonorrhea in both men and women commonly include pain experienced while urinating and a genital discharge, although in some cases there are no symptoms and the disease may be transmitted to others unknowingly. In men, signs of gonorrhea may be seen in the testicles, which become swollen and painful, while women may have abdominal pain and heavy menstrual periods, together with other abnormal vaginal bleeding. Untreated gonorrhea can spread throughout the reproductive organs, causing infertility, and occasionally it travels further via the bloodstream, leading to meningitis or an infection of the heart or joints.
Infections with gonorrhea are common, especially in young people. The disease is more frequent in men, and the risk of infection rises according to the number of sexual partners a person has, increasing even more if a person has any other sexually transmitted illnesses. Although the effects of gonorrhea are normally experienced several days after contracting the illness, in some cases it can take months for symptoms to show up, and ten percent of men and 50 percent of women do not develop any signs but may still pass the disease on to others.
Male gonorrhea generally involves discomfort when passing urine, together with a discharge which is green or yellow in color. One of the testicles might swell and begin to hurt. Women have pain when urinating and a discharge from the vagina, together with a painful lower abdomen. Sometimes the vagina bleeds in between menstrual periods or following sexual intercourse, and the monthly menstrual flow may become heavier.
In both men and women, gonorrhea can infect other parts of the body involved in sexual contact, such as the anus and the throat. The effects of gonorrhea in the throat are usually mild, with a slight sore throat being the most common symptom. If the anus and back passage are involved, there may be itching, discharge and bleeding. Occasionally one of the eyes is affected, probably after contact with an infected finger, and this can lead to conjunctivitis, where the eye becomes inflamed and weepy.
Gonorrhea is normally diagnosed by testing samples of urine or discharge for the presence of Neisseria gonorrheae bacteria. Treatment involves antibiotics, and as sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea often occur together, additional tests and antibiotics may be required for any associated diseases. A person's sexual partners are usually tested and treated at the same time. Antibiotic treatment generally stops the effects of gonorrhea from worsening but the use of condoms during sex can help to prevent the disease from being passed on in the first place.