Gonorrhea is an equal opportunity sexually transmitted disease (STD) as anyone both men or women who are sexually active can contract it. It is a very common infectious disease – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates approximately 820,000 new gonococcal infections occur in the United States each year. Less than half of these infections are detected and reported to the CDC.
Gonorrhea is spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has it. Even a pregnant woman with gonorrhea can give the infection to her baby during childbirth. The infectious disease can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat and is a very common infection among young people ages 15-24 years old.
How does a person know if they have gonorrhea?
For men, there may be no symptoms at all but if they do, they could include:
· A burning sensation when urinating
· A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
· Painful or swollen testicles
Most women also do not have any symptoms and even if they do, they are often very mild or mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Even without any symptoms, women with gonorrhea are at risk for developing serious complications.
If a woman does have symptoms, they may include:
· Painful or burning sensation when urinating
· Increased vaginal discharge
· Vaginal bleeding between periods
What can happen if gonorrhea is not treated?
If gonorrhea is left untreated, it can cause serious and permanent health problems in both men and women.
For men, gonorrhea can lead to a painful condition in the tubes attached to the testicles which could possibly cause a man to be sterile.
It is very unlikely, but gonorrhea can also spread to the blood or joints in which this would be considered a life-threatening condition.
For women the most common result of untreated gonorrhea is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is a serious infection of the female reproductive tract. When it is considered gonococcal PID, it can cause scar tissue to form in the fallopian tubes which can block a fertilized egg from being able to pass through on to the uterus. If this happens, this could lead to the embryo implanting itself in the fallopian tube causing a tubal pregnancy, which is a serious complication that will result in a miscarriage and is can be life-threatening to the mother.
Women with gonorrhea are also at risk for infertility and long-term pelvic/abdominal pain.
Both men and women who are infected with gonorrhea and is left untreated, have an increased risk of contracting or giving HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. This makes it very important for anyone who discovers they have gonorrhea to get treated as soon as possible to prevent that from happening.
Can gonorrhea be treated?
Fortunately gonorrhea can be treated and cured with a dual treatment of using two drugs – a single dose of 250 mg of intramuscular ceftriaxone and 1 g of oral azithromycin. It is important to take all of the medication prescribed to cure gonorrhea and it should not be shared with anyone else.
The medication will stop the infection but it will not undo any permanent damage that has already been caused by the disease.