Gonorrhea

What is Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is a curable sexually transmitted infection that is caused by a bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhea. The bacterium grows and multiplies in the reproductive tract. The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus.

Gonorrhea is a very common infectious disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 700,000 persons in the U.S. get new Gonorrheal infections each year. Less than half of these infections are reported. In 2011, there were 182 confirmed cases in Chester County.

How do people get Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is spread through contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus. Ejaculation does not have to occur for Gonorrhea to be transmitted. Gonorrhea can also be spread from mother to baby during delivery.

What are the symptoms?
Some men with Gonorrhea may have no symptoms at all. But some men will have symptoms 1-14 days after infection. Symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating, or a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis. Sometimes men with Gonorrhea get painful or swollen testicles.

Most women do not experience symptoms. Even when symptoms are apparent, they can be so non-specific as to be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. The initial symptoms in women include a painful or burning sensation when urinating, increased vaginal discharge, or vaginal bleeding between periods. Women with Gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, regardless of the presence or severity of symptoms.

Symptoms of rectal infection in both men and women may include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements. Rectal infection also may cause no symptoms. Infections in the throat may cause a sore throat, but usually causes no symptoms.

What happens if it goes untreated?
Untreated Gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men.

In women, Gonorrhea is a common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). About 750,000 women each year in the US develop PID. The symptoms may be quite mild or can be very severe and can include abdominal pain and fever.

In men, Gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the ducts attached to the testicles that may lead to infertility if untreated.

Gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints. This condition can be life threatening.

How is it diagnosed?
Testing can be done by taking a swab sample from the infected area or by a urine test.

What is the treatment?
Antibiotics can successfully cure Gonorrhea in adolescents and adults. However, drug-resistant strains of Gonorrhea are increasing in many areas of the world, including the US, and successful treatment is becoming more difficult.

How can it be prevented?
The safest and surest way to avoid any sexually transmitted disease is to abstain from sex, or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected.

Proper and consistent use of a latex condom may help reduce risk.

Any genital symptoms such as discharge or burning during urination or unusual sore or rash should be a signal to stop having sex and to see a doctor immediately. If a person has been diagnosed and treated for an STD, he or she should notify all recent sex partners so they can see a health care provider and be treated. This will reduce the risk that the sex partners will become re-infected. The person and all sex partners must avoid sex until treatment is complete and sex partners no longer have symptoms.

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