Gonorrhea is one of the most commonly seen bacterial STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), which is predominantly seen in sexually active teenagers and young adults. It is also informally unknown as “the clap” or “the drip.”
How Does You Contract Gonorrhea?
You may get gonorrhea if you have unprotected sex (includes vaginal, oral and anal sex) with an infected individual. The bacteria are transmitted to your body via the genital fluids like semen and vaginal fluids. The infection can spread to your genital organs (vagina, cervix, penis, urethra, anus), throat or even in rare cases your eyes.
Gonorrhea (as well as most other STDs) do not spread through casual physical contact. Therefore, social activities like sharing meals, hugging, kissing, sneezing etc., with an infected individual will not put you at any risk of developing this infection.
How Can I Prevent Gonorrhea?
The best way to prevent this infection is by following abstinence. You can reduce your risk of contracting gonorrhea by practicing safe sex. Therefore, using condoms, reducing the number of active sexual partners, and being in a monogamous relationship should all help to reduce the risk of this STD infection.
Most patients infected with gonorrhea do not experience physical symptoms, so they are not aware they are infected and this increases the likelihood of passing on the infection to their sexual partners.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Gonorrhea in a Male and in a Female?
Typically, if you have gonorrhea there are no outward physical symptoms and so this makes it difficult to diagnose this infection during your routine physical examination.
Also most of the signs and symptoms seen resemble the chlamydia infection. This makes it confusing to figure out which infection you have and correct diagnosis is very important as both these infections need treatment with different antibiotics.
Men generally complain of a burning sensation or pain while urinating, presence of swelling or soreness in their testes, unusual discharge from their penis (this includes yellow, white or green colored discharges).
Women generally confuse the symptoms of gonorrhea with a urinary tract infection or a vaginal infection, as the symptoms are so similar. Some of symptoms experienced by women are pain or a burning sensation while urinating, increase in their vaginal discharges between periods and vaginal bleeding between periods.
Some people also complain of discharge from their rectum, anal itching, pain or bleeding from the anus and pain during routine bowel movements.
Even if you do not have any symptoms, annual testing is recommended if you are a sexually active young women as well as if you are a homosexual or bisexual man. If a woman is pregnant or considering to get pregnant, she too should be tested. If your sexual partner is diagnosed with this infection, you also need to be tested.
What Happens If Gonorrhea Is Not Treated?
In case the diagnosis is not made early enough, the patient is at risk of developing serious health complications. For men, it increases the probability of contacting further complications related to the testes and prostrate. It can lead him to become sterile or create problems/delays in impregnation. For women, it increases their risk of contracting a secondary complication of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This secondary infection can lead to other problems like ectopic pregnancy where the fetus starts growing outside the uterus, blockage of the fallopian tubes by scar tissue formation, inability to conceive and long-term pelvic or abdominal pain. It also increases your risk of getting an HIV infection.
However, once diagnosis is established, it is relatively easier to treat as compared to other STDs. Treatment usually involves starting an oral antibiotic course of treatment. However, in recent times, the increase in the resistance to antibiotics due to drug-resistant pathogen strains has made the treatment more complicated.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Gonorrhea: https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea.htm
- Mayo Clinic – Gonorrhea: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gonorrhea/symptoms-causes/syc-20351774
- American Sexual Health Association – Gonorrhea: https://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/gonorrhea/
- Planned Parenthood – Gonorrhea: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/gonorrhea