Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection which affects one million people each year in the United States. It is believed a further one million cases each year go unreported, because the disease is asymptomatic in 10 to 15 percent of men, and in 50 to 80 percent of women. Of the women with mild symptoms, 40 to 60 percent ignore them, believing that they are due to some other minor problem. The cervix is the most common site of gonorrhea.
Symptoms appear 3 days to 2 weeks after sexual contact. There is a thick, yellowish discharge. The cervix looks red, with small bump-like pits which are erosions. The urine tract often becomes infected, with the classic symptoms of UTI: stinging pain, frequency, and urgency. The infection can spread, to Skene's and Bartholin's glands. With oral sex, gonorrhea can spread from the penis to the throat, with sore throat and swollen glands, or it is asymptomatic. Discharge from an infected vagina or anal sex can infect the rectum with itching anus and discharge.
Untreated gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Some 1 to 3 percent of women develop "disseminated gonorrhea,'' which spreads throughout the system. It can cause arthritis and, in rare cases, heart disease. The infection can be passed to a baby during birth, causing serious infection and possible blindness. Therapy is by antibiotics. Protect the cervix.