Gonorrhea is one of the most commonly sexually transmitted diseases (STD), with about 700,000 people being infected each year in the United States. In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 120.9 per 100,000 people in the U.S. were infected with gonorrhea. With that in mind, here’s five things you need to know about the disease.
1. Gonorrhea is normally spread through sexual activity. The bacteria grow in warm areas of the reproductive track, especially the cervix, urethra, uterus, anus, and fallopian tubes. Gonorrhea can be found in both women and men, and therefore is spread through vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse.
2. Many people infected with gonorrhea don’t know they’re infected, and that’s why it’s so easily spread! The symptoms of gonorrhea are very mild and sometimes absent in both men and women, making them perfect carriers for the disease. The most common symptoms of gonorrhea are a burning sensation and pain during urination, and vaginal/penile discharge. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a doctor immediately to be tested to avoid further spreading of the disease, because Gonorrhea also has long-term effects on those who don’t seek early treatment. It’s a common cause of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which causes pain in the abdomen and fever. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease also can cause infertility in women. Those infected with gonorrhea are more likely to contract HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Lastly, pregnant women infected with gonorrhea can spread the disease to their newborn baby. Gonorrhea in newborns can cause blindness and life-threatening blood infections. 3. The test for gonorrhea is simple and quick, so if you think you might be infected, don’t hesitate to get tested. The most common tests for gonorrhea are urine tests or swab tests of the infected area.
4. The treatment for gonorrhea is very simple and consists of a dose of antibiotics taken for a certain period of time. Keep in mind that the antibiotics will not prevent you from contracting gonorrhea again in the future, but will only serve to kill the bacteria in your system. If you find that you have gonorrhea, contact your previous sexual partners so that they can also receive treatment if necessary.
5. Because gonorrhea is so rampant in the United States, it is important that we educate each other on how to prevent its spread. Like most sexually transmitted diseases, using latex condoms when having sex can prevent the spread of gonorrhea, whether vaginal, oral or anal. Additionally, talking with your sexual partner before you decide to have intercourse is a very important step in preventing the spread of gonorrhea. Lastly, if you are at a higher risk for contracting gonorrhea (i.e., you have multiple sexual partners and/or do not use condoms regularly), you should consider having frequent gonorrhea screenings. [Mayo Clinic, CDC]