doc-pat1 What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a fairly common sexually disease caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. Apart from the genital areas, the disease may also affect the throat and the eyes. The disease can infect both the sexes, men and women. The common genital sites that are affected by gonorrhea include the rectum and the urethra.

The predominant cause for the spread of gonorrhea is sexual contact. Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that can be acquired from an already affected person. Pregnant women can also pass the bacterium to their newborn babies. Gonorrhea usually affects the eyes of the newborn children.

According to a research, in the USA only, nearly 700,000 people are infected by the bacterium every year. Many people remain unaware of the fact that they are infected with the disease. The disease can be prevented by abstaining from sexual behavior or by wearing a condom during sexual intercourse.

Symptoms of Gonorrhea

Depending upon the infected area, the symptoms of gonorrhea may vary. If the bacterium infects the cervix or urethra in women the common symptoms may be painful urination, an increased vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding between periods, such as after vaginal intercourse, abdominal pain and pelvic pain. If urethra in men is attacked, the common symptoms may include painful urination, pus-like discharge from the tip of the penis and pain or swelling in one testicle.

When the rectum is affected by the bacterium, the common signs would be anal itching, pus-like discharge from the rectum, spots of bright red blood on toilet tissue and discomfort in having bowel movement etc. If the eye is affected by the bacterium, the signs may be eye pain, pus-like discharge from the eye and sensitivity of the eyes to light. When the throat is affected, the common signs may be Sore throat or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

Having any of these symptoms, you should consult the doctor. Moreover, if your sexual partner is diagnosed with gonorrhea, it would be wise to check your own status in terms of the disease.

Diagnosis of Gonorrhea

Diagnosis of gonorrhea is usually made by taking sample of the affected area and identifying the bacterium that is responsible for the disease. The sample of urine can be taken by your doctor for testing the presence of bacterium. If you have gonorrhea, your urine will most probably contain the bacterium.

Alternately, the doctor may collect a swab of your throat, urethra, vagina or rectum to test for the presence of the bacterium. Usually, laboratory tests are needed to identify and confirm the presence of bacteria.

It is often found that gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) co-exist. So the doctor may also recommend you to go for additional tests or diagnostic procedures. For example, gonorrhea and Chlamydia often occur simultaneously and both can be treated at the same time.

Causes of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae and is transmitted through sexual contacts. A person may acquire gonorrhea through vaginal, anal or oral intercourse with an already affected partner. No other modes of transmission are known yet.

Treatment of Gonorrhea

Usually, different treatment options are available for treating gonorrhea in adults and children. Adult patients of gonorrhea are treated with antibiotics. The medicine is administered in the form of a pill or as an injection. The injection is a better option as it reaches the affected area quicker. The pill may be taken by mouth. However, there are several cases of gonorrhea where it reappears after treatment. This may happen due to various reasons. If your partner is not treated for gonorrhea, the disease may attack you once again after treatment. Usually, women are re-tested for gonorrhea to check whether she has acquired the bacteria once again. Ideally, both the partners should be equally treated at the same time to get rid of the disease.

Babies are usually treated with medications for the eyes after their birth, if they take birth from a mother already affected with gonorrhea. This medication is applied to treat any infection the baby might have obtained from the mother. The eye infection is usually treated with antibiotics. However, the parents must act responsible while the children take birth and discuss about their disease with the doctor so that the child can be adequately protected.

Living with Gonorrhea

If untreated at the right time, gonorrhea can lead to serious complications. One of the most noticeable impacts that gonorrhea can have is infertility in women. Untreated gonorrhea can spread to uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID may result in scarring of the tubes, pregnancy complications and infertility. PID is a serious infection that needs immediate treatment.

If men are not adequately treated, gonorrhea can lead to epididymitis, an inflammation in the rear portion of the testicles. If epididymitis is not treated for long time, it may lead to infertility.

If gonorrhea is not treated well, it may spread to other parts of the body, including joints. The results of this spread may include fever, rash, sores, swelling and stiffness.

Untreated gonorrhea patients are more susceptible to more serious infections, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) leading to AIDS. Moreover, the patient suffering from both AIDS and gonorrhea may pass both diseases far more readily than usual to their partners.

Babies born to affected mothers may suffer from blindness, sores on the scalp and infections.

Prevention of Gonorrhea

The best way to prevent gonorrhea is to abstain from sexual contacts. But if you choose to have sex, use condoms during intercourse to avoid sexual contact with your partner.  It should be remembered that gonorrhea can be obtained from any kind of sex, be it oral, anal or vaginal sex.

Discussing the health conditions with your partner is another way to avoid gonorrhea. Ask your partner for symptoms such as burning sensation during urination or sores on the genital area. If these symptoms are present, it would be better to avoid sexual contacts with your partner. Also ask whether your partner have undergone any screening process for sexually transmitted disease. If not then inform about the positive results a screening may have.

It is also important to have a discussion with your partner regarding regular gonorrhea screening if he/she is at an increased risk of acquiring the disease. Such conditions may arise if you have a new sexual partner or multiple sex partners. The risk is also high if you have had gonorrhea treatment in the past. In such cases special precaution should be taken to avoid transmitting or acquiring the disease.