Gonorrhea: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease affecting thousands of people every year in the US. While gonorrhea can be treated easily, it can cause serious and even permanent complications sometimes.

Gonorrhea: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Gonorrhea is also known as the "clap" or "drip," and is a contagious disease transmitted most often through sexual contact with an infected person.

It may also be transmitted by contact with the infected bodily fluids, for instance, a mother could pass on the infection to her newborn during childbirth. The infection is easily spread and occurs most often in people who have many sex mates.

What Causes Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium that can develop and multiply easily in mucus membranes of the body - Neisseria gonorrhea. This bacterium can grow in warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract that includes the cervix, uterus (womb), and fallopian tubes in women, and in the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body) in women and men. It can also grow in the throat, mouth, and anus.

How Common Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a very common infection in the U.S. According to the CDC, there are as many as 700,000 new cases each year with less than half of them reported. There were 334,826 reported cases of gonorrhea in the U.S. in 2012.

Symptoms in Men

While men may not develop noticeable symptoms of gonorrhea for several weeks, others may never develop any. The first noticeable symptom is often a burning or painful sensation during urination.

Other symptoms may include:

  • greater frequency or urgency of urination
  • a pus-like discharge from the penis (white, yellow, beige, or greenish)
  • swelling or redness at the opening of the penis
  • swelling or pain in the testicles
  • a persistent sore throat

Symptoms in Women

Many women don’t develop any evident symptoms. However, when symptoms are developed in women, they tend to be mild or similar to other infections that make them more difficult to diagnose. Gonorrhea infections can appear much like common vaginal yeast or bacterial infections.

Symptoms include:

  • discharge from the vagina
  • pain or burning sensation while urinating
  • the need to urinate more frequently
  • sore throat
  • pain upon engaging in sexual intercourse
  • sharp pain in the lower abdomen
  • fever

If the gonorrhea infection is left untreated, this may also result in the infection spreading to the bloodstream. Rash, fever, or pain in the joints may eventually develop in this case.

Treating Gonorrhea

As mentioned, gonorrhea infection is easily curable with the help of modern antibiotics. But, the emergence of gonorrhea’s drug-resistant strains is a growing challenge. To facilitate the infectants, most states offer free diagnosis and cure at state-sponsored health centers. Usually, doctors will provide an injection of strong antibiotics. Follow-up may also be necessary in some cases.

According to the health law, healthcare professionals are required to report the infection to the County Public Health Department. Then, the health officials will diagnose, contact, test, and treat any sexual partners of the affected person to help control the transmission of the infection. Health officials will also contact other people these individuals may have had sexual contact with.

Some strains of gonorrhea can also develop resistance to common antibiotics. Such cases require more extensive treatment (usually with more expensive antibiotics) or combinations of antibiotics. In addition, scientists are still working to develop vaccines to prevent gonorrhea infection.

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