The initial damage from a gonococcal infection often goes unnoticed. However, a gonococcal infection can lead to serious health problems.
In people with internal genitalia, untreated gonorrhea can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes (tubes that carry fertilized eggs from the ovaries to the uterus). This can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID often has no symptoms, however some people may have abdominal and pelvic pain. Even if it doesn’t cause symptoms initially, PID can cause permanent damage to the reproductive system. PID can lead to long-term pelvic pain, inability to get pregnant, potentially deadly ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus), and chronic pelvic pain.
People with external genitalia rarely have health problems linked to gonorrhea. Infection sometimes spreads to the tube that carries sperm from the testicles, causing pain and fever. Rarely, gonorrhea can prevent them from being able to have children. However, those with untreated gonorrhea infections are vectors for infecting their sexual partners.
An untreated gonococcal infection in anyone can cause disseminated gonococcal infections which can be life threatening. These start out as skin sores or joint infections which can spread to the liver and rarely, the heart and brain.
An untreated gonorrhea infection may also increase your chances of getting or giving HIV – the virus that causes AIDS.