What Is Gonococcal Urethritis?

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  • Written By: Bobbie Fredericks
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 22 December 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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Gonococcal urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra caused by the bacteria neisseria gonorrhoeae, also known as gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is spread by having unprotected sexual contact, and is the second most common sexually transmitted infection. Those with many sexual partners or have unprotected sex are at a higher risk of contacting gonococcal urethritis and other sexually transmitted infections.

The urinary bladder is a small muscular organ that holds urine. Once the bladder is filled to a certain point, the urine is expelled through a tube called the urethra. When the urethra is inflamed, symptoms occur. This condition is termed urethritis.

Symptoms of gonococcal urethritis include fever, painful urination, frequent urination, abdominal pain, and pain during sexual intercourse. A thick yellow discharge from the penis or vagina may be present. Symptoms typically occur four to six days after infection. Patients in high-risk groups experiencing any of these symptoms should cease sexual activity and visit a health care provider as soon as possible.

A urine analysis, disclosure of personal sexual history, and possibly a blood test will allow the medical provider to diagnose the urinary problem present. Since it is a bacterial infection, gonococcal urethritis is treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Untreated gonococcal urethritis infection can spread to other parts of the body, including the skin, joints, heart, blood, and meninges, the membranes that surround the brain. This is a potentially fatal condition called disseminated gonococcal infection.


Ciprofloxacin is one common antibiotic used to treat this infection. Side effects of this drug include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, vaginal itching, and increased risk of tendinitis or tendon rupture. All recent sexual partners of the patient must also be treated. Disseminated gonococcal infection is treated with intravenous antibiotics in a hospital setting for 24-48 hours. After this time, oral antibiotics can be used and the patient may be released.

There are several other types of infection that can produce the same symptoms as gonococcal urethritis. Non-gonococcal urethritis, inflammation of the urethra caused by something other than gonorrhea, is very common, especially in women. Some causes are other sexually transmitted germs, including chlamydia and occasionally herpes simplex. Others are not sexually transmitted, such as bacteria that cause urinary tract infections. The cause will be determined with a urine analysis, and treatment will depend on the cause.

Gonococcal urethritis and other forms of gonorrhea are easily prevented. All people with multiple sexual partners, or with partners who have multiple sexual partners, should use condoms for all forms of sexual contact, including oral sex. Male and female condoms are available, although male condoms are more effective for preventing infection. Dental dams, small rectangles of latex, are available for protection during oral sex performed on a female.



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