Female gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms. It is caused by a very common, highly contagious bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Infection is usually limited to the female reproductive tract following vaginal intercourse, though gonorrhea can also thrive in the throat and rectum after other types of sexual activity. The condition can almost always be cured when a person recognizes the symptoms and decides to seek treatment right away. With antibiotics and patient education, an individual can recover from symptoms within a few days and limit the risk factors for future infections.
Any woman of reproductive age can acquire female gonorrhea if she engages in risky sexual behavior, such as having multiple partners and failing to use the proper protection. Bacteria detach from the genitals of one partner and embed in the mucus membranes of the cervix. Bacteria usually remain at the base of the uterus, though it is possible for infection spread to the upper uterus and fallopian tubes. Gonorrhea thrives in the moist, warm mucus linings and can quickly colonize a large area of the female reproductive tract.
Many women with female gonorrhea do not experience major symptoms at all, so the condition may go untreated for a number of weeks. When symptoms are present, they usually arise within five to seven days of infection. Frequent abdominal cramps; painful and difficult urination; and vaginal bleeding between periods are possible signs of female gonorrhea. A woman may also notice a foul-smelling, pus-like vaginal discharge. Pain following sexual intercourse and increasing feelings of fatigue during everyday activities may also indicate an infection.
It is essential for a woman to visit her gynecologist or a health clinic if she believes she may have a sexually transmitted disease. Simple tests can be performed to confirm the presence of gonorrhea and other common vaginal infections, such as chlamydia. A swab is used to collect discharge and tissue, which is then stained or cultured in a lab to provide an accurate diagnosis. Immediate treatment can be provided at most clinics and doctors' offices, along with instructions to encourage all past sexual partners to get tested.
The standard treatment for female gonorrhea is a single dose of an antibiotic called ceftriaxone administered either as an injection or oral tablet. Symptoms tend to clear up within a week of taking antibiotics. Chlamydia is treated with other antibiotics at the same time as gonorrhea if it is present. If female gonorrhea goes untreated, bacteria can overwhelm the reproductive tract and lead to the development of deep abscesses in the pelvis. Surgical care is often needed in such cases to help prevent infertility and other major complications.