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Gonorrhea

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Complications

In untreated gonorrhea infections, the bacteria can spread up into the reproductive tract, or more rarely, can spread into the blood stream and infect the joints, heart valves, or the brain.

The most common result of untreated gonorrhea is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Gonococcal PID often appears immediately after the menstrual period. PID causes scar tissue to form in the fallopian tubes. If the tube is partially scarred, the 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 may result in a miscarriage and can cause death of the mother.

In men, gonorrhea causes epididymitis, a painful condition of the testicles that can lead to infertility if left untreated. Also, gonorrhea affects the prostate gland and may cause scarring in the urine canal.

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. 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.

Complications in newborns and children

If you are pregnant and have gonorrhea, you may give the infection to your baby as it passes through the birth canal during delivery. A healthcare provider can prevent infection of your baby's eyes by applying silver nitrate or other medicine to the eyes immediately after birth. Because of the risks from gonococcal infection to both you and your baby, health experts recommend that pregnant women have at least one test for gonorrhea during prenatal care.

When gonorrhea occurs in the genital tract, mouth, or rectum of a child, it is due most commonly to sexual abuse.

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Last Updated January 05, 2011