Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial STI worldwide as per WHO. The infection affects the rectum, cervix, uterus or urethra, and spreading further up to throat and eyes. In more complicated cases it can lead to infertility, arthritis and problems in the nervous system. Gonorrhoea is known to be most prevalent among men and women in the age group of 15- 24 years.
However, due to growing resistance the Gonorrhoea bacteria to the available antibiotics, and a large number incidence of cases, it has also been called a huge public challenge by WHO.
How is Gonorrhoea spreads?
Gonorrhoea is spread majorly through vaginal, oral or anal sex. Ejaculation is not necessary for the bacteria to get transmitted.
It can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby at the time of childbirth.
What are the symptoms of Gonorrhoea?
Gonorrhoea is known for its common lack of symptoms. Around 1 in 10 infected men and almost 5 in 10 infected women don’t experience any symptoms.
However, symptoms may appear in two weeks of being infected or they do not appear until many months later.
Women may experience unusual vaginal discharge, a burning sensation while urinating, bleeding in between period cycles, heavy or irregular periods or pain during bowel movements.
In men, Gonorrhoea may take the form of urethral infection which can lead to secretion of pus from the penis. There may also be discomfort or swelling and pain in the testicles. Similar to women, infected men may experience a burning sensation while urinating and pain during passing stool.
Gonorrhoea that affects your eyes may cause eye pain, sensitivity to light, and pus-like discharge from one or both eyes.
Signs and symptoms of a throat infection due to Gonorrhoea may include a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
What can be the consequences of Gonorrhoea?
Gonorrhoea can lead to several infections called the Gonococcal infections which may invade different areas like urethra, pelvic muscle, rectum, vagina, eyes or throat.
Gonorrhoea can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women which can lead to ectopic pregnancy (when the embryo grows in a place outside the uterus) or infertility.
In men, it can lead to Epididymitis which is characterized by swelling in testicles and can lead to complications like chronic pain or even infertility (in rare cases)
Gonorrhoea is often accompanied with another STI Chlamydia. Moreover, Gonorrhoea also increases the risk of transmitting or acquiring HIV, although the risk may not be as prominent as in the case of Syphilis.
When a mother transmits the infection to her baby at the time of childbirth there is a risk of child suffering from blindness, joint infection or a life-threatening blood infection.
How can you prevent Gonorrhoea?
Use of condoms and dental dams to have protected sex can minimize the risk of getting infected.
However to completely eliminate the risk one must either abstain from oral, vagina and anal sex, or be in a monogamous relationship with a partner tested uninfected for Gonorrhoea.
Who should get tested for Gonorrhoea?
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends yearly gonorrhoea screening
- All sexually active women younger than 25 years
- Older women with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection.
Apart from that,
- Anyone with above symptoms like burning sensation while urinating or discharge from their genitals among other should get tested for the infection.
- Pregnant women
- If you had sexual interaction with an infected person
- A sexually active person who may have unprotected sex with multiple partners. Also, if you are sexually active it is suggested that you discuss the risk factor with your healthcare provider.
How is Gonorrhoea diagnosed?
To determine whether the gonorrhoea bacterium is present in your body, your doctor will analyze a sample of cells. Samples can be collected by:
- Urine test. This may help identify bacteria in your urethra.
- Swab of affected area. A swab of your throat, urethra, vagina or rectum may collect bacteria that can be identified in a laboratory.
For women, home testing kits are available for gonorrhea. Home testing kits include vaginal swabs for self-testing that are sent to a specified lab for testing.
How can Gonorrhoea be treated?
Gonorrhoea is one of the four curable STIs.
Antibiotics are used to cure Gonorrhoea in adults. However, in the face of growing resistance of the bacteria causing the infection to antibiotics, CDC prescribes dual therapy. This implies administration of two types of antibiotics to the person to increase the chance of treatment. However, treatment will not lead to reversal of previous damage but will prevent the disease from spreading any further.
If a person’s symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, he or she should return to a health care provider to be reevaluated.
For the partners of the infected person
All recent sexual partners of the infected person must see their health care providers and get treated for Gonorrhoea even though they are not diagnosed for it. A person with gonorrhea and all of his or her sex partners must avoid having sex until they have completed their treatment for and show no more symptoms. A person treated for Gonorrhoea once can be re-infected with the disease if their partner is carrying the bacteria.