Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a sexually transmitted bacterium called, Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This infection is most commonly spread during unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex. A mother infected with gonorrhea may also transfer the disease to her baby during childbirth.
Symptoms of Gonorrhea
The symptoms of this disease commonly appear in the genital tract, and its infection affect multiple sites in the body especially the warm, moist areas including urethra (the tube that drains urine from the urinary bladder), eyes, throat, vagina, anus, joints and female reproductive tract (i.e. fallopian tubes, cervix, uterus). The symptoms occur within 2 to 14 days after exposure but people infected with gonorrhea never develop any noticeable symptom. Though some patients may not show any sign of gonorrhea symptoms (they are called nonsymptomatic carrier), they are still contagious.
Men may not or may never develop noticeable signs of gonorrhea for several weeks, but some of the symptoms include painful urination, pus-like discharge from the tip of the penis, pain or swelling in one or both testicles, greater frequency or urgency of urination, swelling or redness at the opening of the penis, and a persistent sore throat.
Women, on the other hand, don’t develop overt symptoms as well. Infection could appear like a common vaginal yeast or bacterial infections. Nevertheless, symptoms in women include painful urination, the need to urinate more frequently, increase vaginal discharge, sore throat, sharp pain in the lower abdomen, heavier periods or spotting, vaginal bleeding between periods, such as after vaginal intercourse, a painful intercourse, and abdominal or pelvic pain.
Risk Factors and Prevention of Gonorrhea
Having multiple sex partners, a new sex partner, or a sex partner who has concurrent partners can increase the risk of gonorrhea infection. Young age, previous gonorrhea diagnosis, and having other sexually transmitted infections are among the risk as well.
So the best way to prevent having or spreading gonorrhea is through abstinence from sex. But if you do engage in sexual activity, it better to use protection such as condom during intercourse. Being in a mutually monogamous relationship is also considered to be one of the safest ways to prevent being infected with gonorrhea.
Moreover, it is advisable to have a regular gonorrhea screening or to avoid having sex with someone who has any unusual symptoms. Be open with your partner and ask him or her to be tested for sexually transmitted infections. Avoid having any sexual activity with them and ask them to seek medical attention if they are showing signs. This can help to rule out the possible infection that can be passed on.
Diagnoses of Gonorrhea
Healthcare professionals have multiple ways to diagnose gonorrhea infection. If you visit your doctor, be prepared to detail and discuss your symptoms and sexual history. You should also provide the contact information of your previous sexual partners so that the doctor can contact them anonymously on your behalf.
Now, we’ll go through some of the methods that health professionals use to diagnose gonorrhea infection.
One of the methods is taking a sample fluid from the symptomatic area (vagina, penis, rectum, or throat) with a swab and placing it on a glass slide.
If the patient is suspected to have a joint or blood infection, the doctor will obtain blood sample by drawing blood or inserting a needle into the symptomatic joint. The doctor will add a stain to the sample and examine it under a microscope. If the cells react to the stain, the patient is most likely to have a gonorrhea infection. However, this method doesn’t provide absolute certainty though it is relatively quick and easy. The test may be completed by a lab technologist.
Another method involves taking the same sample and placing it on a special dish. The sample will be incubated for several days under ideal growth conditions. If gonorrhea is present, a colony of gonorrhea bacteria will grow.
Results with this method takes 24 hours to 3 days.
If the doctor place you on antibiotics, it is important to take the full course of the pills to ensure that infection is fully treated. Not taking the full course of the antibiotics can make the bacteria more likely to develop resistance to antibiotic. Make follow up appointment with your doctor to make sure that your infection is cleared.
So, if you think you are infected with gonorrhea, it is best to visit your doctor to undergo some test. Making an appointment with the doctor is also the best move if your partner is diagnosed with gonorrhea. Otherwise, untreated gonorrhea may lead you to complications such as:
Infertility in women
Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID is a serious infection that requires immediate treatment. PID is a result of untreated gonorrhea that spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes. This disease may result in scarring of the tubes and may affect pregnancy and fertilization.
Infertility in men
Men have a high risk of epididymitis if gonorrhea is left untreated. Epididymitis is the inflammation of a small, coiled tube in the rear portion of the testicles where the sperm ducts is located. Experts says that epididymitis is treatable, but it may lead to infertility if left untreated.
Infection that spreads to the joints and other areas of the body
Neisseria gonorrhoeae can spread through the bloodstream and infect other parts of the body which include joints. Patients can experience arthritis, heart valve damage, and inflammation of the lining of the brain or spinal cord. Other possible results are fever, rash, skin sores, stiffness, and swelling.
Increased risk of HIV/AIDS
Having gonorrhea can make patients more susceptible to infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can lead to AIDS.
Complications in babies
Babies can be affected during childbirth if the mother is infected with gonorrhea. The babies may develop blindness, sores on the scalp and infections.