Gonorrhea - Causes Symptoms and Treatment

Gonorrhea - Causes Symptoms and Treatment

In the modern world of today, more and more people are inviting sexually transmitted diseases to their body. One of the baddies among those is gonorrhea. Call it unfortunate or something else, but people, who are engaged in sexual activities, whether safe or unsafe, are vulnerable to getting gonorrhea.

Highlight

  • Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that affects both males and females
  • Unprotected vaginal/anal sex and multiple sex partners are some of the risk factors
  • Gonorrhea can cause premature delivery or miscarriage, while it can also affect fertility in men

What causes Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that a person can get from anyone who is infected with it. The disease is caused by bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae which anyone can get through sexual intercourse or oral sex. 

The disease can infect both males and females and mostly affects the urethra, rectum or throat. In women, the cervix can also get affected.

You can get gonorrhea via:

  • Vaginal sex
  • Anal sex
  • Oral sex
  • Touching the infected area of the person

Gonorrhea Facts

International Journal PLOS states that every year there are more than 78 million people reportedly infected with gonorrhea worldwide. The numbers can be much more as there is a lack of mechanism to diagnose and report gonorrhea infection in low-income countries, as per WHO.

According to a WHO report based on the data extracted from 77 countries, gonorrhea has become resistant to antibiotics, hence much harder to treat the disease. India is one of those countries which is witnessing rise of antibiotic resistance due to over the counter medicines and over-prescription of drugs by the doctors. Though the cases of gonorrhea in India is not so high.

Where oral sex, a good medium of spreading gonorrhea, is very common in the western culture, in India, still people have strong reluctance towards it. In fact, oral sex in India is illegal under the section 377 of Indian Penal Code.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is one such condition that may not cause any symptom in many cases. You won’t know you are infected with the disease. But in cases where symptoms appear, gonorrhea can affect multiple parts of your body, most commonly in the genital tract. Some symptoms differ in both men and women.

In Men

  • Painful or burning urination
  • Yellow or green pus-like discharge from penis
  • Swelling in testicles
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Bleeding, itching, and discharge from the rectum
  • Swelling in the opening of the penis
  • Increased frequency of urination

In Women

  • Painful urination
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding between monthly periods or after sexual intercourse
  • Painful intercourse
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Heavier periods
  • Fever
  • Frequent urination

Besides above mentioned, eyes, throat and anus are also affected by gonorrhea.

Risk Factors

  • People who indulge in unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • A sex partner with concurrent sex partners
  • Having other sexually transmitted diseases

Are there any complications of gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea if left untreated can cause significant complications such as:

  • It can cause infertility in women with the infection reaching to the reproductive tract including the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.

This condition is known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which requires immediate medical attention. It can also damage the female reproductive organs.

  • The fallopian tubes of the women may also get blocked preventing future pregnancy or causing ectopic pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus.
  • Infection may pass on to the newborn baby.
  • It can cause premature delivery or possibility of miscarriage.
  • Babies after birth can develop pinkeye (conjunctivitis), infection of the bloodstream, sores and scalp infections.
  • It can cause infertility in men. The coiled tubes at the rear portion of the testicles where the sperm ducts are located, gets inflamed (epididymitis). If it’s left untreated it can cause infertility.
  • In rare cases, gonorrhea infection can make its way to the bloodstream causing heart valve damage, arthritis, and inflammation of the lining of the brain.

Diagnostic procedures of Gonorrhea

There are basically two methods of diagnosing gonorrhea infection. One is urine test which identifies bacteria in the urethra and the other is a swab of the affected area such as throat, vagina, rectum or urethra.

Is gonorrhea treatable?

Gonorrhea is usually treated with antibiotics. Your doctor would give you injection on the buttocks or a single dose orally. Some of the strains of gonorrhea have become resistant to antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin and azithromycin, and it has become a grave challenge to the medical science.

When a bacterium becomes resistant to antibiotics, they can no longer be killed by that particular medicine. If you are being treated for gonorrhea and your condition does not get better, you will need another antibiotic to cure the infection.

Prevention methods of Gonorrhea

Below steps can reduce your chances of getting gonorrhea:

  • Use condom for any type of sexual intercourse
  • Don’t have sex with a partner who has unusual symptoms such as genital rash, burning sensation during urination or sore
  • Ask your partner to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases
  • Annual screening recommended for sexually active women above the age of 25 or those who have multiple sex partners
  • Avoid unprotected sex 7 days after completing the treatment

Vaccines are being developed to prevent gonorrhea infection. If you think you have been exposed to gonorrhea, prevention is the key to stop the spread of this disease.

Sources

1. Gonorrhea(2014). read more
2. Kumar, P. (2012, January-June). Gonorrhoea presenting as red eye: Rare case. Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 33(1), 47-48 read more
3. Romeu, B., González, E., Campa, C., Holst, J., & Pérez, O. (2009, August). 2nd international workshop on Neisseria vaccines (Neisseria vaccines 2009) [Abstract]. Expert Review of Vaccines, 8(8), 987-992 
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