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Gonorrhea Causes and Treatment

Posted by on Tuesday, December 16, 2008, 11:56
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Gonorrhea Causes and Treatment

Also called the “clap” or “drip,” gonorrhea is a contagious disease transmitted most often through sexual contact with an infected person. Gonorrhea may also be spread by contact with infected bodily fluids, so that a mother could pass on the infection to her newborn during childbirth. Both men and women can get gonorrhea. The infection is easily spread and occurs most often in people who have many sex partners .

What Causes Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in mucus membranes of the body. Gonorrhea bacteria can grow in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix (opening to the womb), uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes (egg canals) in women, and in the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body) in women and men. The bacteria can also grow in the mouth, throat, and anus.

How Common Is Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is a very common infectious disease. In the U.S. each year, about 700,000 people are infected with gonorrhea, and about 75% of all reported gonorrhea is found in younger persons aged 15 to 29. The highest rates of infection are usually found in 15- to 19-year-old women and 20- to 24-year-old men.

How Do I Know If I Have Gonorrhea?
Not all people infected with gonorrhea have symptoms, so knowing when to seek treatment can be tricky. When symptoms do occur, they are often within 2-10 days after exposure, but can take up to 30 days and include the following:

Gonorrhea Symptoms in women

Greenish yellow or whitish discharge from the vagina
Lower abdominal or pelvic pain
Burning when urinating
Conjunctivitis (red, itchy eyes)
Bleeding between periods
Spotting after intercourse
Swelling of the vulva (vulvitis)
Burning in the throat (due to oral sex)
Swollen glands in the throat (due to oral sex)
In some women symptoms are so mild that they escape unnoticed.

Many women with gonorrhea discharge think they have a yeast infection and self-treat with yeast infection medications purchased over-the-counter. Because vaginal discharge can be a sign of a number of different problems, it is best to always seek the advice of a doctor to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

Gonorrhea Symptoms in men

Greenish yellow or whitish discharge from the penis
Burning when urinating
Burning in the throat (due to oral sex)
Painful or swollen testicles
Swollen glands in the throat (due to oral sex)
In men, symptoms usually appear 2-14 days after infection.

How Is Gonorrhea Diagnosed?
Your doctor will use a swab to take a sample of fluid from the urethra in men or from the cervix in women. The specimen will then be sent to a laboratory to be analyzed. You also may be given a throat or anal culture to see if the infection is in your throat or anus. There are other tests which check a urine sample for the presence of the bacteria. You may need to wait for several days for your tests to come back from the lab.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia, another common sexually transmitted disease, often occur together, so you may be tested and treated for both.
Gonorrhea can be treated and cured.

How Is Gonorrhea Treated?
To cure the infection, your doctor will give you either an oral or injectable antibiotic. Your partner should also be treated at the same time to prevent reinfection and further spread of the disease.

It is important to take all of your antibiotics even if you feel better. Also, never take someone else’s medication to treat your illness. By doing so, you may make the infection more difficult to treat. In addition,

Tell anyone you have had sex with recently that you are infected. This is important because gonorrhea may have no symptoms. Women, especially, may not have symptoms and may not seek testing or treatment unless alerted by their sex partners.
Don’t have sex until you have completed taking all of your medicine.
Always use condoms when having sex.

What Happens If I Don’t Get My Gonorrhea Treated?
Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent problems in both women and men.

In women, if left untreated, the infection can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which may damage the fallopian tubes (the tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus) or even lead to infertility, and untreated gonorrhea infection could increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilized egg implants and develops outside the uterus), a dangerous condition for both the mother and baby.

In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the testicles that can sometimes lead to infertility if left untreated. Without prompt treatment, gonorrhea can also affect the prostate and can lead to scarring inside the urethra, making urination difficult.

Gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints. This condition can be life-threatening. Also, people with gonorrhea can more easily contract HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. People with HIV infection and gonorrhea are more likely than people with HIV infection alone to transmit HIV to someone else.

How Does Gonorrhea Affect Pregnancy and Childbirth?
Gonorrhea in a pregnant woman can cause premature delivery or spontaneous abortion. The infected mother may give the infection to her infant as the baby passes through the birth canal during delivery. This can cause blindness, joint infection, or a life-threatening blood infection in the baby. Treatment of gonorrhea as soon as it is detected in pregnant women will lessen the risk of these complications. Pregnant women should consult a doctor for appropriate medications.

How Can I Prevent Infection?
To reduce your risk of infection:

Use condoms correctly every time you have sex.
Limit the number of sex partners, and do not go back and forth between partners.
Practice sexual abstinence, or limit sexual contact to one uninfected partner.
If you think you are infected, avoid sexual contact and see a doctor.

Any genital symptoms such as discharge or burning during urination or an unusual sore or rash should be a signal to stop having sex and to consult a doctor immediately. If you are told you have gonorrhea or any other STD and receive treatment, you should notify all of your recent sex partners so that they can see a doctor and be treateD.

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