The Different Types of Gonorrhea You May Get

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When someone refers to gonorrhea, they’re most likely talking about genital gonorrhea, since it is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) first and foremost. Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is difficult to treat, so prevention is given higher priority for this type of gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is typically asymptomatic, which means that symptoms do not appear. But when they do, they can manifest in different areas of your body. Each affected area corresponds to a specific type of gonorrhea.

Genital Gonorrhea

When someone refers to gonorrhea, they're most likely talking about genital gonorrhea, since it is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) first and foremost. This condition affects sexually active men and women in various age groups.1 Male genital gonorrhea consists of painful urination and penile discharge, which may be white, yellow or green. The tip of the penis can become red and swollen, and one or both testicles may experience pain. You may feel the need to urinate more frequently as well.2,3

Women who experience vaginal gonorrhea experience symptoms similar to penile gonorrhea — a pus-like vaginal discharge is present, along with painful urination. There is also some slight bleeding between periods. In less common cases, you may experience pain during intercourse and develop abdominal pain.4

Rectal Gonorrhea

Rectal gonorrhea is not an uncommon condition. According to Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery, the top risk factors of rectal gonorrhea are:5

  • Anal sex
  • Contiguous spreading of the bacteria from the vaginal area to the anal region
  • Anal to oral sexual practices

The main indicator of rectal gonorrhea is the presence of a thick, purulent discharge in the anus in response to exerting anal pressure.6You may also notice blood when you use toilet paper and may need to exert more effort to move your bowels.7 Around 50 percent of women who have vaginal gonorrhea can develop rectal gonorrhea because the bacteria can travel the short patch of skin that separates the vagina from the anus.8

Eye Gonorrhea

It's possible that you can get gonorrhea in the eye, which is a condition known as conjunctivitis (commonly known as pink eye). Common symptoms of pink eye include:9

  • Redness and swelling in the white of the eye
  • Yellow discharge from the corner of the eye
  • Swelling of the upper eyelid
  • Mild eye pain

Bacterial pink eye is highly contagious and can spread easily to others via direct contact from the hands. Newborn babies may get pink eye as well if the mother has vaginal gonorrhea during childbirth.10

Pharyngeal Gonorrhea

Also known as oral gonorrhea, pharyngeal gonorrhea causes your throat to become sore, inflames your lymph nodes and makes it difficult to swallow food. White spots may form in your mouth and release a pus-like discharge. Those who typically perform oral sex are generally at risk for this type of infection. Men who have sex with other men have the highest risk of developing this condition (around 10 to 25 percent).11

Disseminated Gonorrhea Infection

Disseminated gonorrhea infection (DGI) is a rare condition that occurs when gonococcal bacteria enter your bloodstream and infect your internal organs. The symptoms of DGI vary, but they mostly manifest as pain and swelling in one or more joints in the knees, elbows or fingers.

Other indicators of this condition include fever, the appearance of skin lesions and rashes. If left untreated, DGI can cause severe complications such as meningitis, pericarditis and endocarditis.12

Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea

Similar to other bacterial strains, gonorrheal bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, leading to the term "super gonorrhea." Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is difficult to treat, so prevention is given higher priority for this type of gonorrhea.13