Risk factors and complications of gonorrhoea
Those at most risk of an infection:
- Are younger in age
- Have a new sex partner
- Have a sex partner who has concurrent (or multiple) partners
- Have multiple sex partners
- Have had a gonorrhoea infection before (and been diagnosed)
- Have other STD infections
If gonorrhoea is left untreated, significant complications can occur:
- Infertility: If untreated, infection in women can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). The resulting scar damage causes a blockage in the tubes and chronic pain. This process puts a woman at greater risk during pregnancy because it may cause infertility or ectopic pregnancy (a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus). PID is a serious infection and will require immediate treatment. Men are also affected by infertility complications. Untreated gonorrhoea can lead to epididymitis (the inflammation of a small, coiled tube in the rear portion of the testicles. This affects the sperm ducts located in the epididymis) or the development of a painful abscess in the interior of the penis. Gonorrhoea can also affect the prostate, causing scarring inside the urethra which can lead to difficulties with urination. It is a treatable condition but can lead to infertility problems (reduced fertility or sterility) if not attended to by a medical professional.
- Increased risk of HIV/AIDS: A gonorrhoea infection can make you more susceptible to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that leads to AIDS. If infected with both, a person is able to pass both diseases more easily to others.
- Joints and other areas of the body: Neisseria gonorrhoeae can spread through the bloodstream and infect other parts of the body, including the joints. An infection can cause fever, rash, skin sores, swelling and stiffness, as well as pain in the joints. If an infection spreads to the bloodstream, both men and women can develop arthritis, heart valve damage and inflammation of the lining of the brain or spinal cord.
- Babies: If a gonorrhoea infection is passed from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth, infants are at risk of developing complications including blindness and sores on the scalp.