Causes and symptoms: Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which thrives in moist, warm areas of the body including the reproductive tract, the oral cavity, and the rectum.
The most common symptoms of gonorrhea are a discharge from the vagina or penis and painful or difficult urination. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is also a 'silent' disease. Many women who are infected have no symptoms of the disease. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to show symptoms. If symptoms of gonorrhea develop, they usually appear within two to 10 days after sexual contact with an infected partner, although a small percentage of patients may be infected for several months without showing symptoms. Symptoms of rectal infection include discharge, anal itching, and sometimes painful bowel movements.
The disease is most commonly spread during sexual intercourse - vaginal, oral, and anal. Gonorrhea of the rectum can occur in people who practice anal intercourse and also may occur in women due to spread of the infection from the vaginal area. Gonorrhea can be passed from an infected woman to her newborn infant during delivery, causing eye infections in the baby. Doctors can take steps to deal with the infection by applying silver nitrate or other medications to the baby's eyes immediately after birth.
Diagnosis: Three techniques, gram stain, detection of bacterial genes or nucleic acid (DNA), and culture, are generally used to diagnose gonorrhea. Many doctors prefer to use more than one test to increase the chance of an accurate diagnosis. Gonorrhea cannot be diagnosed through a physical examination.
Treatment: Penicillin and tetracycline were initially used in the treatment of gonorrhea. But recently, certain strains of gonorrhea have emerged that are resistant to these antibiotics. Now, people infected with gonorrhea are usually given a single injection of ceftriaxone or alternative single-dose drugs that can be taken orally. Since chlamydia and gonorrhea often occur simultaneously, another antibiotic may also be administered to combat the chlamydial infection.
Complications: As in the case of chlamydia, women don't realize that they have contracted an infection till the symptoms have developed into full-fledged Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, (PID) which is indicated by abdominal pain, bleeding between menstrual periods, vomiting, or fever. PID, in turn, can lead to ectopic pregnancy and even infertility.
If a pregnant woman contracts gonorrhea early on in her pregnancy, there is an increased risk of premature labour, stillbirth and postpartum uterine infection. Therefore, it is recommended that pregnant women be tested for gonorrhea.
An attack of gonorrhea can make a person more vulnerable to HIV infection (HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, causes AIDS), so it is imperative that gonorrhea be detected and treated in the early stages.
Prevention: Use condoms every time you have intercourse.
What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is the inflammation or infection of the fallopian tubes or ovaries. In many cases, PID develops when the chlamydial infection spreads into the uterine cavity and extends into the tubes. A woman who has PID will experience low abdominal pain, vaginal discharge and fever. PID can be diagnosed by a pelvic exam. Doctors usually prescribe oral antibiotics, but hospitalization may be required in severe cases.
PID can result in scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can block the tubes and prevent fertilization from taking place. In other cases, scarring may interfere with the passage of the fertilized egg down into the uterus. When this happens, the egg may implant in the fallopian tube. This is called ectopic or tubal pregnancy. This is life-threatening for the mother and results in the loss of the fetus. In severe cases, PID can cause permanent tubal damage and infertility.