Gonorrhoea: Defeating the Disease

Gonorrhoea also known as the “clap” or “drip” was very common among recruits of the World War 1 and during the late 70’s. During this period, more than a million cases of the disease were recorded annually and today the disease is still very common.Gonorrhoea is very infectious and the risk of acquiring the disease increases with the number of partners with whom an individual has unprotected sexual intercourse, and with the number of sexual partners of those partners. The use of alcohol and other drugs that release inhibitors adds to the risk. This disease could also be passed down from a mother to her newborn during childbirth.

What causes gonorrhoea?
Gonorrhoea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoea– a Gram negative diplococcic, which can grow and multiply in the mucous membranes of the body. They can be found especially in the mouth, throat, and anus of both men and women, and the cervix, fallopian tubes, urethra, and uterus (womb) of the female reproductive tract. The presence of gonorrhoea can be detected using Gram stain tests, which will turn red for Gram negative bacteria.

How can I identify gonorrhea?
The time it takes for the symptoms of gonorrhoea to manifest following infection is usually 2 to 5 days in men but the disease may stay for more than 30 days in women without manifesting its symptoms. Often times, both men and women may experience no noticeable symptoms of gonorrhea after being infected. In this case, they are termed carriers and could unknowingly pass it on to their unsuspecting partners.

Symptoms in men
In men, gonorrhoea is characterised by feeling of pain, burning, or discomfort upon urination, a thick greenish yellow or whitish pus-containing discharge from the penis, testicular or scrotal pain may also occur especially if epididymitis has complicated the urethral infection. When the disease is contracted through oral sex, burning or swollen throat glands may occur.

Symptoms in women
As earlier explained, the symptoms in women are non-specific and may take days to manifest. Some of the symptoms include, greenish yellow or whitish vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods, swelling of the vulva, burning or general discomfort during urination and conjunctivitis. Because of the mildness of the symptoms, gonorrhea is usually difficult to detect early.

How is gonorrhea transmitted?
Gonorrhea is mainly transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse which could be oral, vaginal or anal. The reason for this is because the bacteria that causes the disease, Neisseria gonorrhea, primarily lives in the genital tract. The bacteria can also be passed from a mother to her child during the latter’s journey through the infected birth canal.
According to a research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gay and bisexual men are at higher risk of contracting the disease.

Are there complications?
Yes, complications may result if a man, for whatever reason, does not treat himself. Complications like urinary tract infections, sterility, prostate abscesses and inflammation of the testes are quite likely.
In women, untreated gonorrhea could move from the vagina and cervix up to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and ovaries and cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Other complications in women include:

– Damage to the liver and abdominal organs
– Ectopic pregnancy
– Disseminated gonococcal infections
– Destruction of the heart valves
– Infertility
– Neonatal conjunctivitis – contamination of the eyes of the newborn by Neisseria gonorrhea which may lead to permanent blindness
– Increased risk of contracting HIV
– It can be life threatening if it spreads to the blood and joints.
– Premature delivery or spontaneous abortion among pregnant women

How can I prevent gonorrhea?
– To reduce your chances of contracting gonorrhea, maintain a healthy sexual lifestyle.
– Stay away from sex but if you find this difficult, ensure that you use condom properly every time you have sex.
– Resist the urge to have multiple sex partners.
– Promptly see a doctor for proper diagnosis and possible treatment when you suspect possible infection.

Is gonorrhea treatable?
Gonorrhea is treatable. The initial stage of gonorrhea can be treated with only a single class of antibiotics, the cephalosposins. Penicillin, tetracyclines, sulfonamides and fluoroquinolones were formerly recommended but resistance has risen progressively over the past decades.

When you present your case before a doctor, he may need to do a culture of your infection to ascertain what antibiotics it is not resistant to before placing you on medication, and when he prescribes drugs for you ensure that you follow his instruction to the latter, even when you feel better.
To prevent re-infection and further spread of the disease, it is advisable that your partner gets treated at the same time.

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