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Gonorrhea: Symptoms & Treatments

Gonorrhoea (also known as the clap) is a type of infection of mucus (moist) membranes caused by a bacterium known as Neisseria Gonorrhoeae. Every year, there are nearly 100 million new cases of gonorrhoea. It is commoner in females and young adults between the ages of 20 and 24.

How do you get gonorrhoea infection?

The bacterium is found in the discharge from the penis and in vaginal fluids. This means that it can be spread via oral, anal and vaginal sex. It may also be passed from a mother to her child during childbirth. The bacteria live on the moist, warm areas of the mouth, urethra (tube conveying urine from the bladder to the outside world), vagina, rectum, mouth, throat, and eyes.

Neisseria Gonorrhoeae may exist in the genital tract of both men and women and not cause any symptoms. In fact, about 50% of women and 10% of men don't experience any symptoms and are unaware they're infected. You may, however, pass it on to someone else even if you don’t have any symptoms.

What are the symptoms of a gonorrhoea infection?

Symptoms typically occur within 2 to 7 days after exposure to an infected partner but may be delayed for up to a month, especially in men.

In men, gonorrhoea can cause:

  • Pain or a burning sensation when urinating,
  • A white, yellow or green discharge from the tip of the penis - the discharge may be tinged with blood
  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Pain or tenderness in the testicles or anus.

In women, gonorrhoea can cause:

  • Vaginal discharge (often watery, yellow or green and mildly odorous)
  • Pain or a burning sensation when urinating
  • Fever
  • Itching while urinating
  • Pain in the lower abdomen during or after sex
  • Bleeding during or after sex or between periods, sometimes causing heavy periods.

It is also possible to have a gonorrhoea infection in your rectum, throat or eyes.

How can you test for gonorrhoea infection?

If you have symptoms similar to the ones above and you think you may have gonorrhoea, you should go to your doctor. You will be asked a few questions about your overall health and your symptoms. Thereafter, you will be examined and tested.

A blood test, urine test and a swab are taken for laboratory analysis. Other tests may be required based on the severity of your symptoms.

 

How is gonorrhoea treated?

Treatment for gonorrhoea is by the use of antibiotics for a period of 10 to 14 days. If you have complications, this may influence the treatment plan. It is important to test early and to complete treatment because serious complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility may occur if gonorrhoea is left untreated.

How do you protect yourself from getting gonorrhoea?

The best way to prevent gonorrhoea and ultimately any sexually transmitted infection is to not have vaginal, oral, or anal sex. However, if you do have sex, lower your risk of getting an STI with the following steps:

  1. Be sure you and your partner are tested for STIs before you have sexual intercourse.
  2. Condoms are the best way to prevent STIs when you have sex. Make sure to put the condom on before the penis touches the vagina, mouth, or anus.
  3. Limit your sexual partners. Having sex with just one partner can lower your risk for STIs. Your risk of getting STIs goes up with the number of partners you have.
  4. Do not abuse alcohol or use illegal drugs or substances. Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs increases risky behaviour and may put you at risk of sexual assault and possible exposure to STIs.
  5. Avoid sharing sex toys.

Please note that all these steps must be followed. No single preventive measure is enough to protect one from Sexually transmitted infections.

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