If gonorrhea infections are left untreated, the bacteria can spread into the reproductive tract or, in rare cases, can spread into the bloodstream and infect the joints, heart valves, or brain.
Gonorrhea Complications in Women
The most common result of untreated gonorrhea in women is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is a serious infection of the female reproductive tract. Gonococcal PID often appears immediately after the menstrual period and causes scar tissue to form in the fallopian tubes. If the tube is partially scarred, the fertilized egg may not be able to pass into the uterus, which means that the embryo may implant in the tube, causing a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. This serious complication may result in a miscarriage and can cause the death of the mother.
(Click Gonorrhea and Pregnancy for more information about the complications gonorrhea presents for pregnant women.)
Gonorrhea Complications in Men
In men, gonorrhea causes epididymitis, which is a painful condition of the testicles that can lead to infertility if left untreated. Gonorrhea can also affect the prostate gland and cause scarring in the urine canal.
Other Complications Associated With Gonorrhea
In rare cases, untreated gonorrhea can spread through the blood to the joints. This can cause an inflammation of the joints, which is quite serious. If you are infected with gonorrhea, your risk of getting HIV infection increases (HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, causes AIDS). Therefore, it is extremely important that you know how to prevent getting gonorrhea or to get treated early if you are already infected with the disease.