What is Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can infect both men and women and can cause a variety of symptoms, including painful urination, discharge from the genitals, and, in women, bleeding between periods. If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to serious health problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and an increased risk of contracting or transmitting HIV. Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics, and it is important to practice safe sex to prevent the spread of the infection.
Symptoms of Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea can be asymptomatic, but most infections of gonorrhea show symptoms in the genital area. However, it can affect any part of the body. For example, neonatal babies with gonorrhea have infected eyes. The most common symptoms of gonorrhea are;
Symptoms of Gonorrhea in Men
- Burning or pain during urination
- Discharge from the penis (white, green, or yellow in color)
- Swelling or redness at the tip of the penis
- Pain or discomfort in the testicles
- Swelling or redness around the rectum (in cases of rectal infection)
- Itching or discomfort around the rectum (in cases of rectal infection)
- Blood in the urine (rare)
- Fever or other symptoms of a general infection (rare)
- Pain or stiffness in the joints (rare)
- Conjunctivitis (eye infection)
Symptoms of Gonorrhea in Women
- Burning or itching sensation during urination
- Vaginal discharge that is yellow or green in color
- Painful or swollen pelvic area
- Irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding
- Pain or discomfort during intercourse
- Lower abdominal pain or cramping
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fever or chills
- Anal or rectal itching or discharge
- Sore throat or other signs of a throat infection (in rare cases)
Note: Many people with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. Therefore, it is important to get tested regularly if you are sexually active.
Symptoms of Gonorrhea in neonatal babies
Symptoms of gonorrhea in babies may include:
- Eye infections: Infants with gonorrhea may develop eye infections, such as conjunctivitis, which can cause redness, itching, and discharge from the eyes.
- Joint infections: Gonorrhea can also cause joint infections, such as septic arthritis, which can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints.
- Skin rash: Some babies with gonorrhea may develop a rash on the skin, which can be red, raised, and itchy.
- Blood infections: In rare cases, gonorrhea can cause serious blood infections, such as sepsis, which can lead to organ failure and death.
- Respiratory infections: Infants with gonorrhea may also develop respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, which can cause coughing, difficulty breathing, and fever.
It is important to note that some babies with gonorrhea may not show any symptoms at all. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect your baby has been exposed to the infection.
Causes of Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It is primarily spread through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. The bacteria can also be spread from mother to baby during childbirth. It can also be spread by sharing sex toys.
It is important to note that people who have gonorrhea may not always experience symptoms, which can make it difficult to know when someone is infected and may increase the risk of spreading the infection to others. Regular testing and practicing safe sex can help to prevent the spread of gonorrhea.
Complications of Gonorrhea
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – This is a serious complication that occurs when the infection spreads from the cervix to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy.
- Epididymitis – This is an inflammation of the epididymis, a tube that carries sperm from the testicles. It can cause pain and swelling in the testicles and lead to infertility if left untreated.
- Disseminated Gonococcal Infection (DGI) – This is a serious complication that occurs when the infection spreads to other parts of the body, such as the joints, skin, and blood. It can cause fever, rash, joint pain, and sepsis.
- Urethral stricture – This is a narrowing of the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. It can cause difficulty with urination and may require surgical intervention.
- Proctitis – This is an inflammation of the rectum that can lead to rectal pain, discharge, and bleeding.
- Ophthalmia neonatorum – If a mother has untreated gonorrhea during pregnancy or delivery, it can cause an eye infection in newborns that can lead to blindness if left untreated.
It is important to note that individuals with Gonorrhea can also be asymptomatic which can make it harder to detect, which is why it is always important to be tested for STIs regularly and to always use protection during sexual activities.
Risk factors of Gonorrhea
The risk of having gonorrhea may increase with following factors ;
- Unprotected sexual activity: Having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex increases the risk of contracting gonorrhea.
- Multiple sexual partners: Individuals who have multiple sexual partners are at a higher risk of contracting gonorrhea.
- History of STIs: Individuals who have a history of other sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, are at an increased risk of contracting gonorrhea.
- Men who have sex with men: Men who have sex with other men are at a higher risk of contracting gonorrhea.
- Young age: individuals who are younger than 25 years old are at a higher risk of contracting gonorrhea.
- Substance abuse: Individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, increasing their risk of contracting gonorrhea.
- Low socioeconomic status: Individuals who live in poverty or lack access to healthcare are at a higher risk of contracting gonorrhea.
- Living in an area with a high incidence of gonorrhea: Individuals who live in areas where the disease is more common are at a higher risk of contracting it.
- Lack of knowledge about STIs and their prevention: Individuals who are not informed about STIs and the importance of protection, including contraception and condoms, are at a higher risk of contracting gonorrhea.
- Poor access to healthcare and testing: Individuals who do not have access to testing and treatment for STIs are at a higher risk of contracting gonorrhea.
When to see a doctor?
It is recommended to see a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect or have been exposed to Gonorrhea. Symptoms can include pain or burning while urinating, increased frequency of urination, yellow or green discharge from the genitals, and pain or swelling in the genitals. Additionally, if you have had unprotected sex or have multiple sexual partners, it is important to get tested regularly for Gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted infections.
If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to serious complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and an increased risk of HIV. It’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you have any symptoms of gonorrhea.
Prevention of Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea is a rapidly transmitted disease, and the threat of its transition remain high all the time. Therefore, if you suspect you or your sexual partner with gonorrhea, you must take preventive measures in order to save you and your partner from the disease. You must follow following preventive measures to prevent suffering;
- Practice safe sex: Use condoms during sexual intercourse to reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting gonorrhea.
- Limit sexual partners: The more sexual partners you have, the greater the risk of contracting gonorrhea.
- Get regular check-ups: Make sure to get screened for STIs, including gonorrhea, at least once a year, especially if you are sexually active.
- Be aware of symptoms: If you experience symptoms such as unusual discharge, pain during urination, or bleeding between periods, seek medical attention immediately.
- Practice good hygiene: Always practice good hygiene, including washing your hands and genitals regularly, to reduce the risk of infection.
- Be honest with your partner: If you suspect you have gonorrhea, it is important to be open and honest with your partner so they can also get tested and treated.
- Vaccination: If you’re at a higher risk of contracting gonorrhea, you may be offered the MenACWY vaccine to protect you against certain strains of the bacteria.
Diagnosis of Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea can be diagnosed by its signs and symptoms like white pussy fluid from the genitalia, pain, and irritation in pelvic regions, inflammatory urination, etc. However, clinical examination and lab testing are more useful to bring more precise and accurate results.
During a physical examination, a healthcare provider may notice redness, swelling, or discharge in the genital area. They may also use a swab or urine sample to collect a specimen for laboratory testing.
The most common laboratory test used to diagnose gonorrhea is a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), which can detect the presence of the bacteria that causes gonorrhea in a patient’s urine or swab sample. Other tests, such as a culture or gram stain, may also be used.
It’s important to note that some people with gonorrhea may have no symptoms and may not be diagnosed until complications occur. Therefore, it is recommended to get tested regularly if you are sexually active.
Suspected gonorrhea can be easily diagnosed by means of some laboratory tests;
- Nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT): This test is used to detect the DNA of the gonorrhea bacteria in a sample of urine or a swab taken from the genitals, throat, or rectum. It is considered to be the most accurate test for detecting gonorrhea.
- Culture test: A culture test involves taking a sample of the infected area and growing it in a lab to see if the bacteria is present. This test is not as accurate as the NAAT but can be used if the NAAT is not available.
- Antigen test: An antigen test looks for a specific protein found in the gonorrhea bacteria in a sample of urine or a swab. This test is not as accurate as the NAAT or culture test and is not commonly used.
- PCR test: Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is used to detect small amounts of DNA from the bacteria in a sample of urine, blood, or other body fluids.
- Blood test (Serology Test): A blood test can detect antibodies to the gonorrhea bacteria in the blood. This test is not commonly used to diagnose gonorrhea but can be used to confirm the infection if other tests are inconclusive.
- Gram Stain Test: A sample of discharge is collected and analyzed under a microscope. If gonorrhea bacteria is present, it will appear as gram-negative diplococci.
Treatment of Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can infect both men and women, and babies born to mothers have gonorrhea. It can cause symptoms such as pain or discharge from the genitals, rectum, or throat. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and an increased risk of HIV transmission.
Treatment for gonorrhea typically involves a combination of antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends a dual therapy of ceftriaxone (an injectable antibiotic) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic). This combination is highly effective at curing the infection and preventing the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria.
It’s important to note that gonorrhea can often be asymptomatic, meaning that someone may have the infection without experiencing any symptoms. Therefore, it’s important for anyone who is sexually active to get tested for STIs on a regular basis, especially if they have new or multiple partners.
After treatment, it’s important to wait at least 7 days before having sex again to ensure that the infection has been fully cleared. Additionally, it’s important to inform any sexual partners that you have had in the past 60 days, as they will also need to be tested and treated for the infection.
It’s also important to practice safer sex by using condoms, limiting the number of sexual partners, and getting tested regularly to help prevent the spread of gonorrhea and other STIs.