In many cases, gonorrhea does not cause symptoms. You can therefore transmit it without knowing that you are infected. Complications of untreated gonorrhea infection are reactive arthritis (inflammation of the joints) and disseminated gonococcal infection (encompasses a spectrum of conditions including inflammation of skin, nervous system, tendons and inner lining of the heart).
In women, untreated gonorrheal infections can progress to symptomatic pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can result in infertility, chronic pelvic pain and ectopic (extra-uterine) pregnancy later in life.
In men, untreated infections can lead to ochioepididymitis (infection and inflammation of the testicles and epididymis), which in rare cases, can lead to infertility.
It is therefore important to take a screening test; which means to undergo testing even if you do not show symptoms.
Symptoms of gonorrhea
Symptoms may appear 2-7 days after sexual contact with the infected person.
Here are the symptoms of gonorrhea in women and men.
Symptoms in women:
Tingling or burning sensation when urinating
Change or increase in vaginal discharge
Bleeding between periods
Pain or bleeding during or after vaginal intercourse
Pain in the lower abdomen
Symptoms in men:
Tingling or burning sensation when urinating
Abnormal discharge from the penis or anus
Pain in the testicles or in the area of the anus
There may be other symptoms depending on the area of the body that is infected (throat, anus or eyes).
Screening is done by taking a swab from the infected area. In men and women, the swab can be taken from the anus, throat or by collecting a urine sample. In men, in rare circumstances, the sample can be taken from the urinary meatus (orifice through which you urinate). In women, vaginal self-sampling (which you do yourself) is the preferred method.
For urine collection:
You should not urinate for 1 to 2 hours before collection.
The heath professional gives you a sterile urine container.
You wash your hands with soap and water and dry hands with paper.
You remove the lid from the urine container and place the lid upside down on a counter. You must not touch the inside of the cup with your fingers.
You urinate into the cup until the urine level comes between the two lines drawn by your nurse (20mL to 30mL). You must not pour urine out if you go past the line. Then, you finish urinating in the toilet.
You put the lid on the cup and give it to your health professional who will label it and bring it to the laboratory for analysis.
For vaginal self-sampling:
You wash your hands with soap and water and dry your hands with paper.
You undress from the waist down.
You remove the swab from the package carefully. You must not lay it down or touch the soft tip (Q-tip) of the swab. If the swab is contaminated, you should ask for a new test kit.
You carefully insert the soft tip end of the swab about 5 cm into your vagina. You gently rotate the swab for 10 to 30 seconds, making sure the swab touches the walls of your vagina so that moisture is absorbed by the swab.
You withdraw the swab without touching anything else with the swab.
While still holding the swab, you unscrew the cap from the tube of liquid. You must not spill the contents of the tube.
You place the swab into the tube starting with the soft tip end.
You break the swab shaft at the black line (dented line around middle of stick). You leave the soft end of the swab in the tube and throw away the top portion of the swab shaft. You then tightly screw the cap onto the tube.
If the contents of the tube are spilled or the tip of the swab touches anything, you can ask for a new test kit.
You return the tube to your health professional who will label it and bring it to the laboratory for analysis.
For anal swabs:
The health care professional inserts a swab 3 to 5 cm into the anus and will rotate it for 5 to 10 seconds. The swab is withdrawn and placed in a tube, which will be labeled and then sent to the laboratory for analysis.
For throat swabs:
The health care professional inserts the swab into the throat ensuring contact with tonsils (if present) and the posterior pharyngeal wall. The swab is withdrawn and placed in a tube, which will be labeled and then sent to the laboratory for analysis.
Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics prescribed by a nurse or a doctor. Avoid all sexual contact during the whole duration of the treatment. Even if you have been treated, you can contract gonorrhea again. Over time, certain strains of bacteria have become resistant to known antibiotics and this makes treatment more difficult. If you still have symptoms at the end of your treatment, it is important to consult a health professional again.
It is recommended to repeat another STBBI screening test 6 months after a gonorrheal infection, even if you were compliant with the treatment plan.
If in doubt, contact Info-Santé (811) or do an STBBI screening.
Nurses offer STBBI screening at home via Vesta. Make an appointment if you are at risk of STBBI. Please note that in Quebec, nurses are allowed to only screen patients without symptoms.
To learn more about gonorrhea you can visit the following sites;
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A majority of the services offered on Vesta are covered by popular insurance companies (ex. Desjardins Insurance, Sun Life, Manulife).