Medical information – Gonorrhea

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea (clap) is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium. This is an infection of the urethra, vagina and cervix, anus, nose or throat. Men and women are equally affected by the disease, especially as young adults in their thirties.

What causes it?

The pathogen is a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae which is known under the name gonococcus. The gonorrhea bacterium sits on the lining of the penis (urethra), vagina, anus, nose or throat and causes an infection. Someone who is infected transfers the bacteria to another during unprotected sex. For example if the infected mucosa is in contact with the mucosa of the penis, vagina, anus, nose or throat one can contract the infection. Thus, during oral sex (contact between penis and mouth), an infection of the throat can occur and after anal sex (contact between penis and anus) an infection of the anus can occur. Persons who frequently change their sexual partners and/or who have unsafe sex are therefore especially vulnerable to an infection with Gonorrhea.

The disease can also be transmitted during birth, where it is passed on from the infected mother to the new born child which comes into contact with the infected cervical mucosa. In the newborn, the gonococci often infest the conjunctiva of the eye which can then – if left untreated – lead to a severe, purulent conjunctivitis and at worst to the loss of the child’s sight.

What are the symptoms?

Women get green, often foul smelling vaginal discharge. Urination can hurt or a burning sensation may occur. Some women do not notice the infection as they do not experience any symptoms. Men usually have a burning sensation when urinating within one or two weeks after the infection. The penis can eject yellow or green, purulent, mucous or transparent discharge. If the throat is infected, it can cause throat pain. An infection of the anus causes an itching or burning sensation. Even if the infection shows no symptoms, the disease can be transmitted to others.

What are the consequences?

In women the infection can spread to the fallopian tubes. Therefore there is an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and infertility. For men, except the urethra, the prostate and epididymis can be inflamed.

Diagnosis

In case of suspecting a Gonorrhea-infection, you should definitely get tested. In addition to interpreting the symptoms you might have, a sample will be taken of your vaginal fluid (women) or your urethral fluid (men) and this will be analysed in an accredited laboratory.

Treatment

Treatment is necessary to prevent an extension of the infection in your body. You will get antibiotics; pregnant women are treated with a different antibiotic. Until about a week later, the disease may still be contagious. Avoid sexual contact or at least use a condom. While the infection is not treated, you can easily infect others. About one week after taking the antibiotic, it should be tested if the gonococci really can no longer be detected within the infected patient.

Chances of recovery are generally good for people treated for Gonorrhea: If treated early and successfully (with antibiotics), the inflammations usually heal completely and without consequences. Complications and secondary diseases only appear when treatment is started too late or even not at all.

Warning partners

If you are tested positive, it is not only important to get yourself treated, but it’s also important to alert all of your sexual partner(s) from the past 6 months (preferably the past 12 months) regardless on whether they encounter symptoms. They can have themselves tested (and possibly treated) as well.

Safe sex

Safe sex is the best way to prevent STD’s. You should avoid direct contact between the mucous membranes of the penis, vagina, anus and mouth with the infected area. Tongue kissing each other while using fingers for your partner’s satisfaction is generally safe, but make sure no (menstrual) blood, semen or vaginal fluid is exchanged because it increases the risk of transmission of STD’s. When having vaginal and anal sex (contact between penis and anus) or when sharing a dildo, you should always use a new condom. Oral sex (contact between mouth and genitals i.e., fellatio or cunnilingus) should only be done with a condom or a dental dam protection.

You are tested positive. And now?

If you are tested positive for Gonorrhea, you will have to contact your doctor immediately to get your STD treated right away. Gonorrhea can be cured through a treatment of antibiotics.

Question

Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to have a look in our FAQ or contact us! You can reach us by mail or by phone. Your questions will be answered by one of our microbiologists or a scientist who is an expert on the specific STD.

Contact: Email address: info@microbiome.nl Tel. Nr.: +31 (0)20-4448307

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