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Gonorrhea: Care Instructions


Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection spread through sexual contact (sexually transmitted infection, or STI). It is found most often in the genital area but it can also infect other areas of the body, such as the rectum or throat. While some people who have gonorrhea develop symptoms within a few days after infection, some people have no symptoms. Symptoms of gonorrhea include abnormal bleeding, pain or burning during urination, or a thick discharge from the vagina or penis.

Antibiotics can cure gonorrhea. Both sex partners need to be treated to keep from passing the infection back and forth.

Treatment is important. If gonorrhea isn't treated, it can cause a severe infection of the testicles (called epididymo-orchitis) as well as the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (called pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID). PID can make it hard to get pregnant.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you prevent it?

Here are some ways to help prevent STIs.

  • Limit your sex partners. Sex with one partner who has sex only with you can reduce your risk of getting an STI.
  • Talk with your partner or partners about STIs before you have sex. Find out if they are at risk for an STI. Remember that it's possible to have an STI and not know it.
  • Wait to have sex with new partners until you've each been tested.
  • Don't have sex if you have symptoms of an infection or if you are being treated for an STI.
  • Use a condom every time you have sex. Condoms are the only form of birth control that also helps prevent STIs.
  • Don't share sex toys. But if you do share them, use a condom and clean the sex toys between each use.

Vaccines are available for some STIs, such as HPV. Ask your doctor for more information.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have sudden, severe pain in your belly or pelvis.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new belly or pelvic pain.
  • You have unusual vaginal bleeding.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a discharge from the vagina or penis.
  • You have new or increased burning or pain with urination, or you cannot urinate.
  • You have pain, swelling, or tenderness in the scrotum.
  • You have joint pain.
  • You have pus coming from your eyes.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You think you may have been exposed to another STI.
  • Your symptoms get worse or have not improved within 1 week after starting treatment.
  • You have any new symptoms, such as sores, bumps, rashes, blisters, or warts in the genital or anal area.
  • You have a new skin rash.

Where can you learn more?

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