Annually around eight hundred thousand cases of gonorrhea are reported in the United States. Additionally around 1 million women are affected by pelvic inflammatory disease which is also caused by gonorrhea. Statistics reveal that teenage girls account for the highest infection rates among all age groups and genders. As a consequence of this infection and its associated complications, the healthcare sector spends as much as 1.1 billion US dollars annually. Here is a look at the infection, the various complications, the symptoms, preventive methods and treatment options that are presently available.
What is gonorrhea?
A sexually transmitted infection, gonorrhea is caused by the neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. Also known as gonococcus, this bacteria was earlier known by the term “the clap”. The bacteria is found in the secretions are the discharge from the vagina or the penis. The bacteria spreads from one individual to another individual when both indulge in sexual activities that are not protected. For instance, any form of unprotected oral sex, anal sex or intercourse can result in the transmission of the bacteria from one individual to the other. Additionally individuals who use sex toys that have been used by the partner are also likely to get the infection. Sex toys that have not been cleaned or protected by a condom are likely to spread the infection.
Other modes of spreading of the infection
The bacteria is known to infect the cervix that is responsible for moving the urine from the urethra. It is also known to affect the rectum and in a lesser number of cases individuals are known to be infected in the throat or the eyes. Pregnant women are also known to pass the infection to the newborn infant. This is precisely why pregnant women are always advised to undergo checks to determine the presence or absence of the infection. This will help treat the condition before childbirth. In the absence of the right kind of treatment before childbirth, there is every possibility of the infant being born blind as a result of gonorrhea being passed from the mother to the womb.
Contrary to popular perceptions, the spread of gonorrhea is not as a result of routine activities. For instance, using common toilets, swimming in the pool, or social activities such as kissing and hugging cannot cause the spread of gonorrhea. The bacteria can only survive inside the body and spread from one individual to another directly, it is not potent outside the body. Therefore, the possibility of gonorrhea spreading from one individual to another from outside the body is remote and not possible.
Commonly reported symptoms of gonorrhea
The commonly reported symptoms of gonorrhoea include discharge from the sexual organs. For instance, a thick, yellow or green discharge, either from the penis or from the vagina is commonly reported. Other symptoms include pain during the act of passing urine. There is a possibility of women experiencing bleeding between one period and the other. However, it is not necessary that every individual who is infected should experience any of the symptoms. In fact, in around 10% of the men who are infected and in 50% of women who are infected, symptoms are not experienced.
Testing protocols for gonorrhea
Individuals who suspect an infection are advised to seek medical assistance from clinics that specialize in sexual health. Specialist diagnostics and test help determine the presence of the infection, which will help in treating the condition more effectively and in a timely manner. The infection can be diagnosed by testing swab samples of fluid or discharge from the reproductive organs of both males and females. Alternatively urine samples can also be used for testing in the case of males.
The need for testing is extremely important as early detection will help in preventing complications and health issues that are long term in nature. For instance, gonorrhea can result in infertility among women, or also cause pelvic inflammatory disease which affects a very large number of people annually in the USs.
Treatment regimen for gonorrhea
The treatment for gonorrhea typically involves the use of antibiotics. This could either be in the form of an injectable or it could be a tablet. The injections as well as the tablets are primarily single doses. The right kind of treatment given at the right stage of detection will help in in resolving most of the symptoms in a very short span of time. For instance, a single shot of the antibiotic injection or a single antibiotic tablet will help in treating the condition in just a couple of days.
The need for follow up treatment
There is a need for follow-up treatment in a few weeks after the first dosage of antibiotic. This is mainly to determine through tests, if the infection has been fully cleared. Individuals who have recovered from the condition, are requested to refrain from indulging in any kind of sexual activities for a certain period of time. This period is the window during which confirmatory tests are conducted to conclusively establish that the patient does not have the infection anymore. It is also important to understand that the possibility of contracting the infection the second time exists. Unlike a few other infections, where the individual is immune to the condition after recovery, in the case of gonorrhea, such immunity does not exist. It is therefore essential to follow safe practices and recommendations to ensure that the infection is not contracted the second time.
High risk categories of individuals
The possibility of infection exists among all categories of individuals. It is hard to actually rule out the possibility of an infection among individuals who indulge in sexual activities. However, the high risk categories include those who are sexually active, especially individuals who have the habit of indulging in sexual intercourse with multiple partners. An individual who frequently changes partners belongs to the high risk category. The highest risk is among those who do not use any kind of contraceptive or barrier methods when indulging in sexual activities with multiple partners, or different partners.
The infection has the dubious distinction of being one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. Studies have revealed that young men and women below the age of 25 are more prone to contracting the infection that is attributed to their unsafe practices.
Effective methods for the prevention of gonorrhea
Like most of the other sexually transmitted infections, it is possible to prevent contracting gonorrhea through simple and effective precautions. The most common method is obviously the contraceptive method which helps to act as a barrier that prevents the exchange of discharge between partners. For instance the use of either male or female condoms will help in serving as a barrier method during any kind of anal or vaginal sex. Similarly, the use of a condom or a dental dam will help in preventing the spread of the infection during any kind of oral sexual activities. Sexual health experts recommend the use of a condom to cover the penis, while dental dam is recommended to cover the vagina when indulging in oral sexual acts. Another important recommendation is the need to ensure that all sex toys used during sexual activities are cleaned thoroughly in addition to using new condoms before use by others.
Time required for symptoms to be experienced in individuals after the onset of the infection
In most of the cases, the symptoms of infection are likely to be experienced within two weeks from the time of being infected. In a limited number of cases the manifestation of the symptoms are also known to appear after a longer period. For instance, many months may pass before an individual actually experiences any kind of symptoms associated with gonorrhea. Another important aspect that needs to be remembered, is the fact that in many individuals symptoms may not be presented. Consequently, the infection will remain untreated for or a longer period till the actual manifestation of any of the symptoms. This complicates the treatment, as the individual remains unaware of the condition inside him or her.
Commonly reported symptoms in women
The commonly reported symptoms in women who are infected with gonorrhea include the following – #(1) pain when passing urine or a burning sensation when urine is passed, #(2) abnormal discharge from the vagina which could have different types of consistency – either watery and thin, or yellow, or green in color. There are other uncommon symptoms experience by women which include the following – #(1) bleeding between one period and the other #(2) bleeding after indulging in sexual activities #(3) abnormally heavy periods #(4) pain in the lower abdomen #(5) and a tender feeling in the lower abdomen.
Commonly reported symptoms in men
The commonly reported symptoms in men who are infected with gonorrhea include the following – #(1) inflammation of the foreskin #(2) pain when urinating or a burning sensation when passing urine #(3) abnormal discharge from the penis that could either be white, green or yellow in color. The less common symptoms that are reported in men include pain in the testicles or some form of tenderness in the testicles.
Possibilities of infection in the rectum, throat, and eyes (in both sexes)
Though the possibility of infection in the rectum, throat or the eyes exists in both sexes, this is rare and not common. Indulging in unprotected anal or oral sex can result in infections in the rectum throat of the eyes. Partners also indulge in squirting discharge from the reproductive organs on to the face of their partners. There is a possibility of the partners contracting conjunctivitis as a result of this practice. Individuals who contract gonorrhea infections in the rectum are likely to experience extreme discomfort, or abnormal discharge accompanied by pain in the rectum. Similarly individuals who are infected in the eyes as a result of gonorrhea, are likely to experience information, accompanied by pain and abnormal discharge. There is also the possibility of individuals experiencing irritation in the eyes as a result of infection. However, in the case of throat infections, most individuals do not experience any kind of symptoms, despite being infected.
The need for seeking medical assistance at the earliest
Individuals who suspect that the infection could have been contracted from some partner, are advised to seek medical assistance at the earliest. This is necessary even if symptoms do not manifest, or if the symptoms resolve by themselves without treatment. It is highly likely that the infection still persists, without any outward manifestation of the symptoms. One of the reasons for the need to undergo tests and treatment, is to prevent the spread of infection. An individual with the condition, without any outward manifestation of the symptoms will end up spreading the infection among other partners. In addition to this, the health complications related to the condition. For instance, pelvic inflammatory disease is attributed to gonorrhea. Similarly, women are likely to end up with infertility issues as a result of the infection. It is therefore necessary to seek medical advice and proper treatment to ensure that the infection does not spread and to prevent further health complications.
How infants end up contracting gonorrhea
Infants are known to contract the infection from the mother during childbirth. This is precisely why it is absolutely necessary to undergo the right kind of tests to ensure that the condition is not passed on to the child in the womb. The symptoms associated with the condition in infants include inflamed eyes that are reddish in color, with an abnormal discharge that is thick with the consistency of pus. These symptoms are typically seen in the first two weeks after childbirth. Pregnant mothers can undergo treatment for gonorrhea without causing any harm to the child in the womb. The antibiotics used for treating gonorrhea will not cause harm to the child in the womb or to the child during weaning.
When are antibiotics recommended for treating gonorrhea?
The antibiotics that are used for treating gonorrhea involve a short course, and are recommended when certain conditions are witnessed/reported. For instance, if diagnostic tests have revealed the presence of gonorrhea, antibiotics are recommended for treating the condition. Similarly, if the test performed an individual return negative, antibiotics can still be recommended if all other circumstances point to the possibility of an infection being contracted from a partner with gonorrhea. The third condition for the use of antibiotics in individuals is when one of the partners has been positively diagnosed with the condition. In other words, an individual who has indulged in unprotected sexual activities with a partner who has been diagnosed with gonorrhea, needs to undergo treatment with antibiotics.
How are antibiotics administered?
Antibiotic injections for treating gonorrhea typically include a single shot that is administered either in the thighs or in the buttocks. Following the injection, the individual is most likely to be prescribed one antibiotic tablet as follow up medication. In the event of individuals finding it difficult to receive an injection, antibiotic tablets are also prescribed in place of the injection. Their effectiveness is more or less the same, though injections are regarded to have a slightly better edge when it comes to potency.
Individuals who have been treated for the condition, are likely to experience improvements in a couple of days from the time of being administered the injection or tablet. However, some of the symptoms are most likely to remain for as long as two weeks before completely resolving. For instance, males with pain in the testicles are likely to experience the pain for as long as two weeks before it resolves. Similarly in the case of females, heavy periods or bleeding that is experienced between two periods are also likely to resolve before the next period. One of the reasons for or follow up treatment is to confirm that the infection is fully cleared and to determine that other effects ii effects are symptoms are not experienced or symptoms are not experienced. During the period of the treatment, and the follow up tests, individuals are recommended to abstain from any kind of sexual activity. Till the follow-up diagnosis and treatments have confirmed that the condition is fully resolved, individuals are recommended to stay away from any kind of sexual activity. This will ensure that the infection does not spread to others, while also preventing any possibility of the individual being infected the second time. In the event of symptoms remaining unresolved, it is essential to seek medical attention and diagnosis to determine the reason.
The role of sexual partners in contracting gonorrhea
As the infection is passed from sexual partners, it is necessary to exercise extreme caution when indulging in sex with multiple or different partners. Individuals who are diagnosed with the condition, have the responsibility of intimating partners with whom sexual activities were performed recently. This will help the partner to seek medical attention and avail treatment at the earliest. The owners of responsibility rests on the individual who has been confirmed with the infection. All partners with whom the individual had sex in the recent past are likely to have contracted the infection. Therefore every such partner needs to be tested for the condition and treated accordingly. In certain nations, confidentiality of the infected person is maintained when healthcare channels are used for conveying this information to past sexual partners. Sexual health clinics and genitourinary clinics are often used as channels to intimate past sexual partners of individuals about the possibility of exposure to a sexually transmitted infection. These contact slips, do not contain the details of the infected patient, but are used to safely convey the message to the partner, which helps treat the condition more effectively.
Treatment regimen for newborns who are diagnosed with gonorrhea
As mentioned above, newborn infants are at risk of contracting the infection from the mother. Infants who are confirmed cases of the infection, are administered antibiotics immediately to treat the condition. Pregnant mothers, as mentioned above, can also be treated with antibiotics to prevent the transmission of the infection from the mother to the child. However in the event that treatment was not provided to the mother, the child can be administered antibiotics. In both the cases, the use of antibiotics will not be harmful to the mother, the child in the womb, or the new born baby. The use of antibiotics will help prevent various health issues associated with gonorrhea, especially blindness that is associated with gonorrhea in babies.
The need for administering treatment as early as possible
Studies have revealed that treatment of gonorrhea in the early stages will help prevent the manifestation of complications or serious health. In the absence of timely treatment, there is every possibility of the infection spreading to other parts of the body, which could result in in long-term health complications. As mentioned earlier, the possibility of contracting the infection repetitively exists. In other words, individuals who do not follow safe sexual practices, are likely to end up with the infection multiple times. This has the possibility of turning into a serious complication. Individuals have been infected with the condition multiple times are more likely to have health complications that are serious or long term in nature. The narrative is in the statistics – almost one in 5 women with gonorrhea are likely to end up with pelvic inflammatory disease. As a result of pelvic inflammatory disease, the infected women can end up with infertility issues or with the condition that is known as ectopic pregnancy.
Women with gonorrhea during various stages of pregnancy can end up with complications that include (1) permanent vision damage the newborn baby (2) conjunctivitis in the newborn (3) going into labor prematurely and (4) miscarriage during childbirth. This makes it necessary to treat newborn infants of mothers with confirmed gonorrhea with antibiotics. The treatment is administered immediately after childbirth to prevent vision damage that is both progressive and permanent in nature.
Complications arising out of gonorrhea in men
As mentioned above, women with gonorrhea likely to end up with complications such as infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease or serious issues during childbirth. In the case of men, complications arising out of gonorrhea, are mainly related to painful infections. For instance, men are most likely to experience pain in the districts or the prostate gland. This could result in reduction of fertility in a small percentage of individuals with the condition. There are other rare conditions that are also distinctly possible. For instance, untreated gonorrhea in men can result in the infection spreading through the bloodstream. As a consequence of this, there is every possibility of the infection resulting in sepsis in other parts of the body. These life-threatening infections are possible, but have been documented to be rare in nature, occurring only in a very small number of cases.
Diagnosis – only method of conformation of gonorrhea as a sexually transmitted infection
Diagnosis happens to be the only method by which suspected gonorrhea can be confirmed. It is of paramount importance for individuals to ensure that the testing is performed as soon as possible. Ideally, any individual suspects that he or she may have contracted gonorrhea from a partner should choose to be tested immediately. If a partner is a confirmed case of gonorrhea, then testing is necessary to confirm and prevent the spread of the condition. While testing is possible in just few days after indulging in sexual activity with the partner, doctors recommend that testing performed after 5 or 6 days is a better option. This is the period when the conditions will manifest in a manner so as to show up on a test result. Here it is important to understand that testing needs to be conducted you even if the individual does not exhibit any symptoms.
The importance of timely detection and treatment of gonorrhea has often been repeated by experts. This is essential considering the manifestation of the condition in to pelvic inflammatory disease and serious infection of the testicles. These complications may end up creating a situation where it is difficult to treat the condition effectively. The most commonly used criteria when individuals are expected to undergo tests include the following. #(1) individuals whose partners may have indulged in unprotected sexual activities with other individuals #(2) individuals whose partners exhibit symptoms that are consistent with gonorrhea #(3) individuals with other confirmed sexually transmitted infections #(4) individuals whose partners have confirmed sexually transmitted infections #(5) individuals who have intelligent unprotected sexual activities with an unknown partner #(6) females who observe vaginal discharge or experience inflammation during urination #(7) males who experience abnormal burning sensation while passing urine #(8) males who experience pain in the testicles #(9) meals who observe abnormal discharge from the tip of the penis #(10) pregnant women or women were planning to have a child.
Individuals who fulfill any of the above conditions are expected to undergo tests in time and follow prescribed treatments. This will help prevent the spread of infection to other individuals, while also protecting the infected person from father health complications that could be either serious or long term in nature. This is especially important the case of pregnant women were likely to pass on the infection to the newborn baby.
Testing protocols for the infection
As mentioned above, the testing protocols for the infection include swab samples or urine samples depending on the gender. Swab samples involve the use of a cotton bud that is wiped over those parts of the body over which the discharge may have flown. The procedure is not painful or lengthy in nature, but could be discomfiting as it involves using the swab on private parts. For instance, the swap sample is collected from the cervix or the vagina or the urethra. This could be taken in an examination room by a trained nurse. In certain cases, due collecting the samples. This is less invasive in nature and allows the individual to collect the sample in complete privacy. It is important to understand that urine samples of women are not used for the purpose of testing for gonorrhea. This is mainly due to the fact that this sample will not be an accurate test for determining the sexually transmitted infection. In the case of men, the sampling procedure is relatively easy. In most cases, men provide urine sample which is used for the purpose of testing. This procedure has specific instructions that need to be followed for effective testing. Individuals who are asked to provide urine sample, are expected to not pass urine in the two hours preceding the test. This is necessary to ensure that the bacteria is not washed away. In other instances, it may be possible that a swab sample of the discharge from the tip of the penis is used for the purpose of testing. This testing protocol is used only when males report a discharge from the tip of the penis.
Testing procedure when infections of the rectum throat or eyes are reported
In cases where the throat the eyes of the rectum are infected, swap samples from the infected area is collected. For instance, if an individual has reported infection in the rectum, swap sample from the rectum is collected. Similarly, if an individual has a reported infection in the eyes, swap sample from the infected eye is collected. It is the same procedure for collecting a swab sample from individuals who report a throat infection. Or in the cases where the individual reports conjunctivitis as a result of gonorrhea, the discharge from the infected eye is collected for the purpose of testing.
Speed of testing protocols and results
Without exception, all of the tests are rapid in nature, where the samples were collected quickly without the need for any elaborate procedures. While test results may take as long as two weeks, it is also possible for receiving instant results. This is possible when the sample is viewed through a microscope by trained experts. Depending on the condition and the symptoms, these rapid testing protocols may be used for immediate results.