In the United States, gonorrhea is one of the three most widespread sexually-transmitted diseases, along with syphilis and Chlamydia. Every year, 124 people per 100,000 population get infected with it, with about half of the reported cases involving young people between the ages of 15 years old and 24 years old. It can cause serious harm and damage to the body if not detected and treated as soon as possible, so proper protection and precaution when having sex is necessary to avoid it.
What causes gonorrhea?
The sexually transmitted disease known as gonorrhea is caused by bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Once it gets inside your body, it can bring about problems to your reproductive system, as well as your throat, mouth, rectum, and eyes.
Who can get infected with gonorrhea?
Everyone can be infected with gonorrhea. Whether you are a man, woman, adult, teen, or baby, you can contract the disease if you get exposed to the bacteria that cause it. However, some people’s risks are greater than others. If you belong to any of the following categories, you are more likely to get struck by gonorrhea:
- If you engage in unprotected sexual practices, such as not using condoms when doing oral, anal, or vaginal sex
- If you have multiple sex partners
- If your sex partner has multiple sex partners
- If you have previously been afflicted with gonorrhea
- If you have a history of other types of sexually transmitted infections
What are the typical symptoms that come with the gonorrhea infection?
Gonorrhea triggers different signs and symptoms in men and women.
In men, gonorrhea can cause the following:
- Pain or soreness in one or both testicles
- Pain when urinating
- An odd discharge that resembles pus, which comes out of the tip of the penis
In women, gonorrhea warning signs can include:
- Bleeding in the vagina after sexual intercourse or outside of the menstrual period
- Pain when urinating
- An increase in the amount of discharge released by the vagina
- Pain in the pelvic or abdominal region
- Pain when having vaginal sex
What will happen if gonorrhea is not diagnosed and treated right away?
Undiagnosed and untreated gonorrhea can be very dangerous. In addition to the symptoms enumerated above, you may experience more severe complications that include:
The gonorrhea bacteria can cause infertility in both men and women if not eliminated as soon as possible. In men, it can lead to epididymitis, and in women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Higher risk of HIV/AIDS
Gonorrhea can make your body more susceptible to the human immunodeficiency virus that can eventually become AIDS if not treated immediately.
What are the common myths about gonorrhea?
For the good of your sexual health, you should be able to differentiate facts from myths. When it comes to gonorrhea, there are several myths going around that you should be wary of. Below, we correct the most common myths about this infection:
Myth #1: Gonorrhea can only be spread via vaginal sex.
Fact: The majority of gonorrhea cases are spread via vaginal sex, but there are cases in which the infection is transmitted through oral sex and anal sex too. Do not ever think that you are safe from it if you do not make penis-to-vagina contact. Gonorrhea can also cause damage to your rectum, mouth, and throat. To protect yourself, you should use barriers, like condoms and dental dams, every time you have sex.
Myth #2: Gonorrhea cannot be spread if you are taking antibiotic medications.
Fact: Even when you are taking antibiotics, you are not 100% safe from gonorrhea. If, for instance, you have been diagnosed with gonorrhea and are receiving antibiotic treatment for it, you are not advised to engage in any kind of sexual activity for the meantime so as not to endanger your sexual partner. Also, if, for example, your partner has been diagnosed with it and are receiving antiobiotic treatment for it, you cannot just start taking antibiotics to protect yourself and then still have unprotected sex with them. It is crucial that you have a serious discussion with your doctor about it to understand how gonorrhea treatment actually works.
Myth #3: You can get gonorrhea from public toilets.
Fact: The bacteria that cause gonorrhea, as well as the other types of sexually transmitted infections, cannot survive outside of the human body, so there is no way they can stay alive on a toilet seat, just waiting for a chance to strike another victim. This idea that you can get STIs via the use of public toilets is a complete myth that everyone should stop believing in.
Myth #4: There is no known cure for gonorrhea.
Fact: We are so fortunate that we live in a time when treatments for different kinds of diseases, including gonorrhea, exist. If gonorrhea is diagnosed early on, it can easily be cured using antibiotics. Usually, doctors prescribe gonorrhea patients with cefixime or cetrifiaxone, which are injectable medications, and azithromycin, which is a tablet, to be taken for a number of weeks until the infection is totally eradicated. However, if your gonorrhea is detected late, treating it might be more challenging, and undoing the damage it has done to your body might be impossible. The importance of early detection and diagnosis cannot be emphasized enough for the efficacy of the treatments available.
Myth #5: Only adults are in danger of contracting gonorrhea.
Fact: While a significant number of cases of gonorrhea involve adult men and women, there are times when the infection strikes babies too. If a woman who has gonorrhea gets pregnant or if a pregnant woman gets infected with gonorrhea, she can transmit the bacteria to her child during child birth. When this happens, the baby can suffer from eye infections that may eventually lead to blindness. This is why it is crucial that pregnant women undergo gonorrhea testing to find out whether they are infection-free or not, and lower the risk of passing the STI on to their babies.