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What is a Gonorrhea Test?

By Laura Evans
Updated May 17, 2024
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Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Both men and women can develop gonorrhea. In addition, a woman can pass gonorrhea on to her baby during childbirth. A gonorrhea test is used to determine if a person has this STD by checking for the presence of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. There are a couple of common tests used to detect this bacteria.

Physicians who diagnose gonorrhea may use one of two tests. One gonorrhea test uses a urine sample. If the urine sample contains Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the individual who is being tested has gonorrhea. Another gonorrhea test is to take a swab of the area where the physician suspects the infection is located. Like the urine test, if the swab contains Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the gonorrhea test is positive.

After getting a positive result with a gonorrhea test, a physician will prescribe antibiotics to the person to treat the infection. Left untreated, adults with gonorrhea can become sterile or the bacteria can travel through the body and cause other infections. People who have gonorrhea are more likely to get infected when exposed to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can ultimately lead to developing acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), gonorrhea is the second most reported "notifiable" infectious disease in the United States, following chlamydia, another STD. Neisseria gonorrhoeae thrives in warm, moist areas such as the throat, the urethra, and the cervix. In addition, gonorrhea can also develop in the mouth, the eyes, and the rectum.

In some cases, both men and women may be symptom free despite having a gonorrhea infection. If a person is symptomatic, the symptoms depend on the location of the infection and sex of the individual. If a man has a gonorrhea infection in the urethra, the structure used to discharge urine from the body, he may have pain while urinating and a discharge similar to pus from the penis. Women with an infection in the urethra may have pain while urinating, pain in the abdomen or pelvis, and vaginal discharges.

Women who have gonorrhea while pregnant tend to have more miscarriages than women who are not infected. In addition, women can pass the infection on to their babies during childbirth. Gonorrhea can affect babies' eyes. Left untreated, infants who have gonorrhea infections in the eyes can become blind. Although rarer, infants who have gonorrhea can develop scalp infections, joint infections, and blood infections.

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