Gonorrhea, also called the “clap” and the “drip” is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrheoae and can affect any sexually active individual. It is the second most common sexually transmitted diseases. It is reported that in the US alone, it has affected more than 700,000 men and women each year, with the highest occurrence among teenagers and adults in the early and late twenties.
Generally, gonorrhea can infect the women’s reproductive tract ( vagina, cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes for women) and the men’s genitalia but the infection could reach the urethra (urine canal), throat, anus and mouth and even in the eyes depending on the sexual activity.
Who are at risk
The virus can also be spread by the exchange of bodily fluid. In oral sex, the virus can be transmitted from the genitals to the throat of the person giving the stimulation or vise versa. Anyone engaged in any sexual relations can be infected, but you are of higher risk if:
- you don’t use condoms or dental dams
- you have multiple sexual partners
- you have weak immune system due to certain medical conditions and medications
- have had other sexually transmitted diseases before such as chlamydia
Gonorrhea can also be spread from an untreated mother to her child in a vaginal child birth.
Most gonorrhea cases do not show any symptoms. Four out or five infected women have asymptomatic condition, while with men, one out of ten affected individuals do not show any symptom at all. But if you do get the symptoms, you may experience them within the first two weeks after being infected.
Symptoms may include:
- a burning sensation when urinating
- frequent urge to urinate
- burning sensation in the throat (due to oral sex) or swollen throat glands
- greenish or yellow discharge from the male and female genitalia
- tenderness or pain in the genital area or abdomen
- rectal pain and discharge when the anus is infected
- for women, bleeding between menstrual cycles and spotting during intercourse
- for women, swelling and tenderness of the vulva (the external female genitalia. It includes the labia, clitoris, the openings to the urethra and the vagina)
- if the bacteria reaches the bloodstream, they may travel throughout the body and cause a mild fever, joint pains, and a rash, particularly on the palms of the hands.
Physicians normally prescribe antibiotics for a week or two for treatment. Antibiotics can work two ways: some medications, like penicillins, destroy the bacterium’s wall, causing it to break down in smaller, unharmful particles. It can also block the production of proteins inside the bacterium, which prevents it from reproducing.
Consult your doctor and don’t self medicate. Some patients with gonorrhea may, unknowingly, also have chlamydial infections. If you or your partner have any of these symptoms,consult with a physician so you can get be advised of the right dosage. While under medication, you will be advised to abstain from any sexual contact until it can be ensured that the infection is cured.
Gonorrhea can be cured in a week or two if the treatment plan is strictly adhered to, but it can recur. You and your partner should be regularly tested for gonorrhea to avoid further complications.
Untreated gonorrhea , in both men and women can lead to other severe conditions. Three out of 100 women and men with untreated gonorrhea develop a condition called disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI) which causes arthritis and skin sores. DGI also includes joint pain and fever.
Untreated, it can also cause infertility to both men and women. In women, the infection could reach the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes, a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and could affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. In men, the infection could reach the urethra and the testicles. Untreated, it can result in a condition called epididymitis, the inflammation of the tubes at the back of each testicles that store and house the sperm until maturity.
Gonorrhea in pregnant women can lead to stillbirth and premature labor. If an infected mother gives birth through vaginal delivery, the baby is susceptible to blood, joint and eye infections.
Gonorrhea is highly curable so treat it as soon as you can before it leads to other complications.