What is Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhea.
The disease is highly contagious and is usually found in the fluids of the body. It can be spread from one person to the other through sexual intercourse with a person who is infected.
The condition can also be passed to a baby when a pregnant mother is infected with the bacterium. The condition is common in both women and men and it is easily spread from one person to another.
The disease is common in people who have more than one sexual partner. Neisseria is a bacterium that multiplies in the mucous membranes that are found in the body and this includes the moist and warm parts of the reproductive tract.
This includes the fallopian tubes, cervix, and uterus in women and the urethra in men. The bacteria can also thrive in other bodies this includes the throat, anus, and mouth.
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Presenting Signs and Symptoms of Gonorrhea
Most of the people who are infected with the bacteria ado not present with any symptoms.
The symptoms usually occur after the incubation period that can take 1-14 days. The symptoms differ from men and women
Symptoms in Women
- Whitish and yellow-greenish discharge: The discharge comes through the vagina. This is caused by the inflammation process where the bacterium infects the reproductive tract.
- Burning sensation when passing urine: This occurs due to the inflammation process that may cause ulceration of the mucous membranes of the vagina causing the burning sensation.
- Pain on the lower abdomen: This is because of the infection of the uterus that is found on the lower abdomen causing one to have pain.
- Passing of blood after sexual intercourse: This is because the mucous membranes are already interfered with and there might be ulceration that causes the bleeding.
- Swelling of the external genitalia: This is where the vulva is swollen and this is caused by the inflammation process of the body that causes an increase in the blood supply to the area of infection that causes the swelling.
Symptoms in Men
- Whitish or greenish discharge that comes through the penis: This is because of the infection by the bacterium.
- A burning sensation when passing urine: This is caused by the inflammation process that causes ulceration on the urethra causing the burning sensation.
- Swollen and painful testicles: This occurs due to the inflammation process where a message is sent to the brain causing pain to be present.
- Burning sensation in the throat: This is usually common in people who practice oral sex and it is caused by inflammation process in the mouth secondary to infection.
Diagnosis of Gonorrhea
The doctor will take a swab from the fluids that are found in the cervix in women and urethra in men.
The sample of this fluid is then taken to the laboratory for analysis to check for the presence of Neisseria bacterium.
The patient can also be asked to give a sample of urine. This is taken to the laboratory for analysis to check for the presence of the bacteria in the urine.
A swab can also be taken from the throat or anus. This is taken to the laboratory to check for the presence of the bacterium in the anus and throat. This is common in people who practice oral and anal sex.
The sample will also be tested for Chlamydia that usually occurs concurrently with gonorrhea. Studies have shown that people who present with gonorrhea have Chlamydia.
The expected duration of the condition is largely determined by the time when treatment is sought. When the treatment is sought early, the antibiotics that are prescribed will start clearing the infection and this will improve the symptoms.
The symptoms will take approximately one to two weeks with early intervention.
When the condition is left untreated, or there is delayed treatment, the complications of the disease are likely to occur.
Treatment of Gonorrhea
- The condition is treated with antibiotics because the cause of the disease is a bacterium. The patient will be given oral or injectable antibiotics depending on the severity of the condition. The injectable antibiotics are usually given through the vein.
- All sex partners should be treated to avoid re-infection with the bacteria and spreading to others. All sexual partners should be advised to seek treatment because they might be infected but do not present with the signs and symptoms.
- It is very important to adhere to the treatment because antibiotics can cause resistance. This is where one takes antibiotics and they do not help in treatment because of non-adherence.
- It is advisable to complete taking the antibiotics before engaging in any sexual intercourse. This is important because the infection may still be in the body and can be transmitted from one person to another.
- The medicines given for treatment should not be shared with another person and this is because the antibiotic treatment is very specific and is given as a dose for a single person. The other sexual partner is encouraged to seek medical advice and adhere to the treatment.
- It is advisable to be tested again for gonorrhea after three months to ensure that the infection has cleared. The doctor will give more antibiotics or a stronger brand in cases where the infection has not cleared. When there is resistance to the treatment, it means that the bacterium is not killed by the antibiotic and several combinations of the antibiotics may have to be used to help in the clearance of the infection.
- The patient will be treated for Chlamydia using doxycycline 100mg that is taken 2 to 3 times a day for 1-2 weeks.
- The patient will be given ciprofloxacin 500mg and this is usually given as a single dose or Levaquin 500mg also given as a single dose.
Prevention of Gonorrhea
- The best way of preventing from the disease is by abstinence from any form of sex and this includes anal sex, vaginal sex and oral sex.
- It is advisable to use the male or female condoms every time one is having sexual intercourse.
- It is advisable to use a dental dam or a condom when one is engaging in oral sex.
- The number of sexual partners should be limited to one. This will reduce the risks of being infected.
- Be faithful to your partner and advise them to be faithful.
When To Call A Doctor?
Patients are advised to call their gynecologist or visit a health facility in case they have the symptoms of gonorrhea.
It is also advisable to seek medical intervention when someone has engaged in sexual activity with someone who is infected.
Pregnant women are advised to go for screening to ensure that they are not infected because this can lead to complications in their pregnancy.
All sexually active people are advised to go for routine checkups even when they do not present with the symptoms to ensure that they are not infected. This can be done once or twice per year.
When the condition is left untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women. This is where the fallopian tubes become infected and scarred and this can lead to ectopic pregnancies and in severe cases infertility.
The condition can also cause infection of the prostate gland, urethra, and epididymis. These are different parts of the male reproductive system and this can interfere with their sexual activity or even cause infertility.
The bacteria may also gain entry to the bloodstream where it can cause infection of different parts of the body.
These infections include meningitis (infection of the membranes covering the brain), septic arthritis (infection of the joints), and endocarditis (infection of the layers covering the heart).
The mothers who are pregnant and infected with the condition may give birth to a baby who has gonococcal ophthalmic neonatorum where the eyes of the neonate are infected with the bacteria and this can cause blindness.
NOTE: It is advisable for people who are sexually active and are below 25 years to be tested regularly for the condition.
This should be done whether or not they have the symptoms and this helps in getting early treatment and preventing the spread of the disease.