- Painful or burning sensation when urinating
- Increased vaginal discharge
- White, yellow or green discharge from the penis
- Vaginal bleeding between periods
- Painful or swollen testicles
- Anal itching, discharge, soreness/pain, or bleeding
The emergence of drug-resistant gonorrhea doesn’t mean there aren’t treatments available, but options are limited.
Gonorrhea used to be treated with a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, but is now mainly treated with cephalosporins (including the aforementioned ceftriaxone). Currently, the primary treatment for gonorrhea is a single injection of 500 milligrams of ceftriaxone, and because reinfection is common, the CDC recommends retesting three months after treatment. So far, ceftriaxone has been an effective cure for the strains of gonorrhea discovered in the U.S., says Thomas Russo, MD, a professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York.
If that first injection of ceftriaxone doesn’t kill the bacteria, a doctor should prescribe a higher dose, possibly with a different “second-line” antibiotic, says Dr. Russo. “That’s why culture and sensitivity testing is important,” he explains. “It can identify alternatives.”
However, the CDC warns that if a gonorrhea strain eventually emerges that is resistant to cephalosporins, it will “significantly complicate our ability to successfully treat the STI” — there are few antibiotic options left that are “simple, well-studied, well-tolerated” are. , and very effective” against the bacteria. That doesn’t mean we suddenly have that no options, but it does mean that our options are limited. Experts are studying the efficacy of new drugs to treat gonorrhea, but they may take years to reach the market. And prompt, effective treatment is pretty crucial: Untreated gonorrhea can potentially lead to serious complications for some people, including pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries that can increase a person’s risk of infertility, said Dr. Russo. In rare cases, untreated gonorrhea can also become life-threatening if the infection spreads to your bloodstream or joints.
The best way to avoid any problems that gonorrhea can cause is to try to avoid the STI in the first place – which of course is up to both of you and your sexual partner(s). This starts with open, honest communication about sex. Properly using a barrier method (such as a condom, diaphragm or dental dam) will reduce your risk of contracting or spreading various STIs (again, you or your partner(s) may not even be aware that you have an infection, so using protection is important even if you have no symptoms).
Dr. Adalja also says it’s “critical” for any sexually active person to get tested for STIs regularly to ensure early detection; the CDC recommends at least once a year for gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia, or more often — at least every three to six months — if you’ve recently had sex with a new partner or multiple partners. If you’re not entirely sure how often you should get tested, don’t hesitate to discuss this with your doctor. (You can find an STI testing site near you here, or you can check with your local Planned Parenthood for these services.)
If you develop symptoms that are outside of your norm — pain, discharge, just a general feeling that something “isn’t right” — don’t wait to see your primary care doctor, ob-gyn, or even a healthcare provider. emergency department clinic, says Dr. Russo: “Fast and effective treatment is important.”