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Gonorrhea

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To the surprise of most patients, gonorrhea is actually one of the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. and is growing in rate of diagnosis annually. Once thought of as a sexually transmitted disease of the past, gonorrhea has become one of the largest health threats to sexually active individuals. Despite popular opinion, gonorrhea is not limited to the homosexual and bi-sexual communities but is an equal opportunity social disease.

GONORRHEA SYMPTOMS

Not all cases of gonorrhea will be accompanied by symptoms, or may have only mild symptoms that do not seem like a serious illness. Untreated gonorrhea can have serious consequences and patients who even just think they might have been exposed should get tested immediately. Symptoms are likely to include a discharge from the penis or vagina, usually quite thick and cloudy with occasional streaks of blood. Burning, itching, and painful urination are common, as is painful sexual intercourse. Men often discover a tingling sensation throughout the penis when developing gonorrhea and most women don’t realize their discharge is anything other than a yeast infection until after notification that a sexual partner has developed the disease.

GONORRHEA CAUSES

Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which is spread through intimate contact, meaning that bodily fluids must be exchanged. Vaginal fluid or semen carries the bacterium. Outside of sexual contact, the only other method of transmission includes the passing of the bacterium from mother to child during birth.
Gonorrhea
Image: Gonorrhea

GONORRHEA DIAGNOSIS

The vast majority of diagnosed gonorrhea cases occur in young men and women under the age of 30. Sexuality does not play a role in contracting the disease. Risk factors for gonorrhea include unprotected sexual intercourse regardless of the gender of the partner.

Women 15 to 19 years of age have the highest rates of infection and men between the ages of 20 and 24 have the highest rates of infection.

Gonorrhea is diagnosed through a laboratory test. A physician may conduct a physical examination. Based on patient complaints, most physicians recognize the symptoms of gonorrhea and simply order a sample of the discharge to be analyzed by a laboratory.

GONORRHEA COMPLICATIONS

Untreated gonorrhea can lead to serious complications, including infertility for both genders. Men may develop inflammation of the ducts near in the testicles where the sperm is stored, which can lead to infertility. Women are likely to develop pelvic inflammatory disease, which can also lead to infertility. Both genders are at risk for anorectal gonorrhea, which is gonorrhea of the rectum from experiencing anal sexual activity with an infected partner. Either gender may experience infections in other parts of the body, including the eyes, throat, tonsils, and widespread body infections.

GONORRHEA TREATMENT

Over the counter medications may alleviate some of the symptoms associated with gonorrhea but will not provide a cure. Gonorrhea is becoming increasingly drug resistant, and thus is treated with strong antibiotics. Patients who do not take their entire course of antibiotics are likely to experience a secondary gonorrhea infection that is more stubborn and difficult to treat.

Babies that are born with gonorrhea from the passage of the disease from mother to infant are treated immediately with antibiotics.

GONORRHEA PREVENTION

The only prevention for gonorrhea is protected sexual contact and testing for those who believe they may have experienced exposure to gonorrhea. The belief among young Americans that sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea is primarily a homosexual issue is contributing to the rapid spread of gonorrhea.
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