The Consequences of Untreated Gonorrhea

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Gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted infection (STI), is a bacterial infection that affects both men and women. In untreated gonorrhea infections, the bacteria can spread up into the reproductive tract or, more rarely, can spread through the bloodstream and infect the joints, heart valves, or the brain.

The most common result of untreated gonorrhea is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a serious infection of the female reproductive tract.

Gonococcal PID often appears immediately after your menstrual period. It causes scar tissue to form in the fallopian tubes. If the tube is partially scarred, a fertilized egg may not be able to pass into the uterus. If this happens, the embryo may implant in the tube, causing a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. This serious complication can result in a miscarriage and can cause the death of the mother.

Rarely, untreated gonorrhea can spread through the blood to the joints. This can cause an inflammation of the joints, which is very serious.

If you are infected with gonorrhea, your risk of getting HIV infection increases. HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, causes AIDS. Therefore, it is extremely important for you to either prevent yourself from getting gonorrhea or get treated early if you already are infected with it.

So How Will I Even Know I Have Gonorrhea?

The symptoms of genital gonorrhea differ between men and women.

For women, the main thing affected by this STI is the cervix. However, as mentioned above, gonorrhea can spread to the uterus and the fallopian tubes if left untreated. Often women do not experience recognizable symptoms. When they do occur, however, they can include:

Other symptoms including pain, swelling, and discharge can occur when gonorrhea affects the throat or rectum of both women and men.

What Do I Do If I'm Diagnosed With Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea can be cured with the right treatment. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends dual therapy (i.e. using two drugs) for the treatment of gonorrhea.

It is important to take all of the medication prescribed to cure gonorrhea. Your medication should not be shared with anyone.

You should know, however, that although medication will stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent damage already done by the disease. Antimicrobial resistance in gonorrhea is of increasing concern, and the successful treatment of gonorrhea is becoming more difficult. For this reason, researchers are working on developing additional medications that are effective with these new, drug-resistant strains of the infection.

If your symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, you should return to your healthcare provider in order to be reevaluated and to perhaps be given an alternative medication.


The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases