Gonorrhea is a very common sexually transmitted disease, especially among young people aged 15 to 24. Statistics show that there are about 78 million new cases of gonorrhea diagnosed each year world wide. This makes gonorrhea one of the most frequently occurring sexually transmitted infection all round the world. A bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is responsible for causing gonorrhea, which is sometimes called “the clap” or “the drip” because of the vaginal, penile, or rectal discharge it can cause.
It is very easy to be infected with gonorrhea because it is highly contagious. You can get it by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has it. It can spread even if a man doesn’t ejaculate (cum) during sex. An infected pregnant woman can likewise pass the infection to the baby during vaginal delivery but not through C-section. In addition, Gonorrhea can also spread through non-sexual processes to the blood and cause a life-threatening infection, which is marked by arthritis, tendon inflammation, and skin rash.
What are the Risk factors?
There are certain factors that may increase your risk of gonorrhea infection. These include :
- Being of young age.
- Having a new sex partner.
- A sex partner who has other sex partners.
- Having multiple sex partners.
- Previous gonorrhea diagnosis.
- Having other sexually transmitted infections.
What are the Symptoms in Men and women?
The symptoms of gonorrhea infection varies for both males and females. It is important to see your doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of the symptoms so as to be properly diagnosed and treated appropriately. This is because untreated infection of gonorrhea can lead to infertility in both males and females. In males, the gonorrhea infection can spread to the epididymis (a tube that carries sperm) and cause epididymitis which is a cause of male infertility. For females, they may get a pelvic inflammatory disease which affects the uterus and fallopian tubes with gonorrhea and this becomes responsible for their infertility.
Symptoms of gonorrhea infection in women may include:
- Vaginal discharge which smells very strongly.
- Feeling Pains and burning sensation when urinating.
- Urinating frequently more than you usually do.
- Having pains during vaginal sex.
- Sore throat.
- Fever and severe lower abdominal pain, if the infection has spread to the fallopian tubes and stomach area.
Likewise, symptoms in men might include:
- Having pains and burning sensation while urinating.
- Urinating more often than usual.
- Having a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis.
- Red or swollen urethral opening.
- Sore throat
How is Gonorrhea Diagnosed?
Your doctor can successfully diagnose if you have gonorrhea and start you up on appropriate medications. You shouldn’t go about trying to self-medicate or be embarrassed to talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Usually, the symptoms you report to your doctor will give him or her an idea of what might be going on and they might ask you a couple of questions to determine whether you may have been exposed to the gonorrhea bacteria. The doctor may also examine your body for other obvious signs of the infection and may ask you to go for laboratory investigation.
Urogenital gonorrhea can be diagnosed by testing your urine. Urethral swab (for men), or endocervical or vaginal swab (for women) may be used to collect specimens for nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT). In addition, laboratory diagnosis may involve gonorrhea culture, which requires endocervical or urethral swab specimens. If a person has had oral and/or anal sex, pharyngeal and/or rectal swab specimens should be collected either for culture or for NAAT.
What is the treatment?
Antibiotics are the medications used to treat gonorrhea although antimicrobial resistance has made the treatment of the infection more difficult in recent times. Current recommendations in treating the infection using two different antibiotics which your doctor will prescribe for you. It is important to take all of the medication prescribed to cure gonorrhea.
You are not expected to share medication for gonorrhea with your partner. If you suspect your sexual partner may also be infected, let he or she also report to the hospital for proper diagnosis and appropriate drug prescription. If your symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, you should return to your doctor for reevaluation.
How Can it be Prevented?
There are things you can do to protect yourself and your partner from getting infected. 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. To avoid reinfection with gonorrhea, abstain from unprotected sex for seven days after you and your sex partner have completed treatment and after resolution of symptoms, if present.
It will also help if you can find out whether your partner has been tested for sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea. If not, ask whether he or she would be willing to be tested just to be sure. And 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.
Finally, annual screening is recommended for all sexually active women less than 25 years of age and for older women at increased risk of infection, such as those who have a new sex partner, more than one sex partner, a sex partner with concurrent 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.
- Mayo Clinic – “Gonorrhea.”
- CDC – “Gonorrhea: CDC Fact Sheet.”
- American Sexual Health Association – “Gonorrhea”
- CDC. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2017. Atlanta, GA: Department of Health and Human Services; September 2018.
- Handsfield HH, Lipman TO, Harnisch JP, Tronca E, Holmes KK. Asymptomatic gonorrhea in men. N Engl J Med, 290(3), 117–123 (1974).