Gonorrhea – What to Know Where To Get Help

Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease that affects 820,000 people in the United States each year. It can be passed to other people through sexual activity and can cause serious health effects if left untreated. Understanding the facts about gonorrhea can help people seek medical treatment at the first sign of symptoms, to protect themselves and sexual partners against reproductive damage from the disease.

What Causes Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is caused by the transmission of the N. gonorrhoeae bacterium that thrives in the mucus membranes of the human body. The bacterium can grow in the warm, moist areas of the body, such as the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes in women and in the urethra of both men and women. It can also grow easily in the anus, mouth or throat. The bacterium is transmitted from one person to another through sexual contact, including oral and anal sex.

When Do Symptoms of Gonorrhea Infection Appear?

Some people who have acquired a gonorrhea infection will not have any symptoms, so deciding to get treatment can be a problem. Generally, symptoms appear within 2 to 10 days after you have been exposed to the bacterium. However, it can take up to 30 days to show symptoms, in some cases.

Gonorrhea Symptoms in Women:

Infection with the N. gonorrhoeae virus can cause no symptoms or a number of symptoms, such as:

· Burning on urination

· Discharge from the vagina that is greenish-yellow or white

· Spotting after intercourse

· Bleeding between periods

· Swelling of the vulva

· Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis

· Red, itchy eyes (conjunctivitis)

· Burning in the throat, from oral sex

Gonorrhea Symptoms in Men:

Men may also experience no symptoms. However, they should be alert to symptoms such as:

· Burning on urination

· Painful testicles or swelling of the testicles

· Burning in the throat, from oral sex

· Swollen glands in the throat, from oral sex

How Is Gonorrhea Diagnosed?

The physician will diagnose gonorrhea by taking a swab of the tissue in the affected area, whether is the vagina, penis, cervix, rectum or throat. This tissue is then cultured in a laboratory to determine the type of infectious agent.

Sample errors can sometimes occur when there is no bacterium in the particular tissue or when there are problems with the testing process. Newer tests use DNA amplification techniques to find the bacterium. These tests are more expensive, but they provide faster results so that treatment can begin immediately.

What is the Treatment for Gonorrhea?

The N. gonorrhoeae bacterium can be eliminated from the body with antibiotics. Previously, a single injection of appropriate antibiotic, such as cefixime. However, some new strains of gonorrhea have shown resistance to common antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends using two different antibiotics used for this disease.

Treatment of gonorrhea should always include the use of antibiotics that are also effective against chlamydia because chlamydia, another type of sexually transmitted disease, often occurs with gonorrhea. If the symptoms continue after taking the antibiotics for several days, you should notify your physician for further treatment.

Antibiotics may be given orally or through injection. For oral antibiotics, it is important to finish all of the medication to completely eliminate the infection. Your current partners should also be treated. Patients should also contact previous sexual partners to inform them that they have been exposed to an STD and should seek treatment.

What Happens if Gonorrhea Is Not Treated?

In women, if gonorrhea is not treated, the infection can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and scarring of the fallopian tubes that carries the egg to the uterus. This condition can cause infertility or ectopic pregnancy. In men, untreated gonorrhea can cause inflammation of the epididymis that carries the sperm to the penis, which can lead to problems with fertility.

Prevention of Gonorrhea

Treatment of the partner of the person will help to ensure that re-infection with the bacterium does not occur. Other measures of preventing gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases should be implemented, such as:

· Discuss sexual history and the possibility of STDs with partners before beginning a sexual relationship.

· Avoid sex if you have symptoms of gonorrhea or other STD, and also avoid sex while you are being treated for an STD.

· Avoid sex with anyone who shows symptoms of an STD.

· Have a sexual relationship with only one person at a time.

· Use a condom to prevent infection from an STD if you are not certain of the sexual history or habits of a partner.

Gonorrhea is an STD that can be cured with appropriate treatment. If you believe you have been exposed to gonorrhea, see your physician immediately and contact past sexual partners to notify them to ensure they get tested and treated.

I Want to Get Tested

If you are insured and regularly see a certain healthcare provider, that is a great place to start. It’s always smart to check with your insurance provider to make sure tests, such as this, are covered.

If money is an issue, many clinics provide free STD tests. Refer to the resources listed below for affordable STD test options:

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Awareness and prevention are key when it comes to sexually transmitted infections. While contracting an STD like gonorrhea can be unsettling, taking care of it as soon as possible can make a huge difference.

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