Gonorrhea is a curable sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by
bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. These bacteria can infect the
genital tract, mouth, and rectum of both men and women.
In women, the opening to the uterus, the cervix, is the first place of
infection. The disease can spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes, resulting
in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID affects more than 1 million women in
this country every year and can cause tubal (ectopic) pregnancy and infertility
in as many as 10 percent of infected women.
In 2002, 351,852 cases of gonorrhea were reported to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC). In the United States, approximately 75 percent of
all reported cases of gonorrhea are found in people aged 15 to 29 years. The
highest rates of infection are usually found in 15- to 19-year old women and 20-
to 24-year-old men.
The bacteria are carried in semen and vaginal fluids and cause a discharge.
Symptoms usually appear within 2 to 10 days after sexual contact with an
infected partner. For women, the early symptoms of gonorrhea often are mild. A
small number of people may be infected for several months without showing
When women have symptoms, the first ones may include
- Bleeding associated with vaginal intercourse
- Painful or burning sensations when urinating
- Yellow or bloody vaginal discharge
More advanced symptoms, which may indicate development of PID, include cramps
and pain, bleeding between menstrual periods, vomiting, or fever.