Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae also known as gonococcus.
The gonorrhea bacterium grows well in warm moist areas of the body. In women, the bacterium can grow easily in the vagina, cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. In both men and women, the bacterium can also grow in the urethra, back of the throat, eyes, and anus.
The disease is mainly transmitted through sexual contact which include penile and vagina contact, oral and genital contact, oral and anal contact, genital and anal contact. Mother infected with the bacterium can also transmit the infection to the newborn during childbirth.
Symptoms in Men
The symptoms may appear within 1 to 14 days after infection or it may not show up at all for some men. The most common symptoms in men include burning sensation during urination and cloudy discharge from the penis (white, yellow, or green in color). Some men may also experience swollen testicles and frequent need to urinate.
If the infection is left untreated for two or three weeks, it may spread upward and infect the prostate gland, bladder, kidneys, and testicles. Most men will continue to experience symptoms of periodic discharge and burning sensation during urination. Some men may experience fever and difficulty urinating.
If the infection is left untreated for more than a month, it may spread down and infect the epididymis on one or both the testes. Usually only one side gets infected initially and even when gonococcal epididymitis infection has been treated successfully, it can leave behind scar tissues blocking the flow of sperm from testicle that was infected. Normally men do not become sterile from epididymitis infection on one testes but if both testes become infected and without proper treatment can cause permanent sterility.
Symptoms in Women
In women, the symptoms may take longer to appear within 1 to 21 days after infection or it may not show up at all for some women. The symptoms in women include burning sensation during urination, vaginal discharge (yellow or green in color), frequent need to urinate, painful intercourse, and bleeding between periods.
Women infected with trichomoniasis which is another type of STDs can mask the presence of gonorrhea infection and the only way to be certain is to get tested in health clinic by physician. If the infection is left untreated, serious complication can arise when the disease infect the upper reproductive tract that lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
The symptoms of PID may include fever, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, painful urination, and pain during intercourse. When PID is left untreated can lead to scarring of the fallopian tubes which can cause some women to become infertile and sterile. PID can also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy in some women. Ectopic pregnancy is an abnormal pregnancy that occurs in a fallopian tube instead of inside the uterus.
Other symptoms experience by some men and women may include chills, skin lesions, loss of appetite, and joint pain. Very rarely gonococcus can also spread to the heart, liver, spinal cord, and brain. Newborn infant have high risk of developing gonococcal eye infection from infected mother during childbirth. Gonococcal eye infection can be treated with erythromycin or tetracycline ophthalmic ointment when apply to the infant eyes immediately after birth.
The bacterium can also be transmitted to the throat from oral to genital contact or from oral to anal contact with someone who is infected. The infection in the throat may cause sore throat but most people do not experience any symptoms. In women, the bacterium can also be transmitted from vagina to anal opening during vaginal discharge or menstrual bleeding. Both men and women with rectal infection may experience symptoms that include anal itching, rectal discharge, bleeding, and painful bowel movements.
Proper diagnosis is required to detect the presence of gonorrhea because the disease can coexist with Chlamydia infections and other infection that produce similar symptoms. Gonorrhea can be treated with a single dose of ceftriaxone, cefixime, ciprofloxacin, or ofloxacin plus treatment for Chlamydia infections which may include a single dose of azithromycin or doxycycline for seven days.
Individuals who believed are infected with gonococcus should be diagnosed and treated accordingly. All the individuals’ sexual partners should also be diagnosed and treated completely to avoid serious complication and to prevent re-infection.