What is Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is an infection caused by a sexually transmitted bacterium that can infect anyone who is sexually active. Gonorrhea most often affects the urethra, rectum or throat. In females, gonorrhea can also infect the cervix. Gonorrhea is most commonly spread during unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex. You can help reduce your risk of transmission by practicing safer sex whenever you engage in any sexual activity.
What are the Symptoms?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Some men with gonorrhea may have no symptoms at all. However, men who do have symptoms, may have:
- A burning sensation when urinating
- A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis;
- Painful or swolled testicles (although this is less common).
Most women with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. Even when a woman has symptoms, they are often mild and can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Women with gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
Symptoms in women can include:
- Painful or burning sensation when urinating;
- Increased vaginal discharge;
- Vaginal bleeding between periods.
Rectal infections may either cause no symptoms or cause symptoms in both men and women that may include:
- Anal itching;
- Painful bowel movements.
You should be examined by your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD, such as an unusual sore, a smelly discharge, burning when urinating, or bleeding between periods.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is extremely important to reach out to your doctor, if untreated, gonorrhea can cause significant issues in regard to your health. Here is list of complications from mayoclinic.org that an individual can experience:
- Infertility in women. Gonorrhea can spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can result in scarring of the tubes, greater risk of pregnancy complications and infertility. PID requires immediate treatment.
- Infertility in men. Gonorrhea can cause a small, coiled tube in the rear portion of the testicles where the sperm ducts are located (epididymis) to become inflamed (epididymitis). Untreated epididymitis can lead to infertility.
- Infection that spreads to the joints and other areas of your body. The bacterium that causes gonorrhea can spread through the bloodstream and infect other parts of your body, including your joints. Fever, rash, skin sores, joint pain, swelling and stiffness are possible results.
- Increased risk of HIV/AIDS. Having gonorrhea makes you more susceptible to infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that leads to AIDS. People who have both gonorrhea and HIV are able to pass both diseases more readily to their partners.
- Complications in babies. Babies who contract gonorrhea from their mothers during birth can develop blindness, sores on the scalp and infections.
To help reduce your risk of gonorrhea:
- Use a condom if you have sex. Abstaining from sex is the surest way to prevent gonorrhea. But if you choose to have sex, use a condom during any type of sexual contact, including anal sex, oral sex or vaginal sex.
- Limit your number of sex partners. Being in a monogamous relationship in which neither partner has sex with anyone else can lower your risk.
- Be sure you and your partner are tested for sexually transmitted infections. Before you have sex, get tested and share your results with each other.
- Don't have sex with someone who appears to have a sexually transmitted infection. If your partner has signs or symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection, such as burning during urination or a genital rash or sore, don't have sex with that person.
- Consider regular gonorrhea screening. Annual screening is recommended for sexually active women younger than 25 and for older women at increased risk of infection. This includes women who have a new sex partner, more than one sex partner, a sex partner with other partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection.
Regular screening is also recommended for men who have sex with men, as well as their partners.
Antibiotics are the most common treatment for gonorrhea. The following excerpt from an article explains the treatment course.
- Antibiotics are used to treat gonorrhea. As with all antibiotic protocols, it is important to take all of the medicine as directed or otherwise the medicine may not work. Both partners require treatment to keep from passing the infection back and forth.
- Getting treatment as soon as possible helps prevent the spread of the infection and lowers your risk for other problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Many people who have gonorrhea also have chlamydia, another STI. If you have gonorrhea and chlamydia, you will get medicine that treats both infections.
- Avoid all sexual contact while you are being treated for an STI. If your treatment is a single dose of medicine, you should not have any sexual contact for 7 days after treatment so the medicine will have time to work.
- Having a gonorrhea infection that was cured does not protect you from getting it again. If you are treated and your sex partner is not, the chance of reinfection is likely.
Take care of your health by practicing safer sex, getting tested regularly, openly communicating with your partners and being aware of all of your health needs!