Gonorrhoea is an infection caused by a sexually transmitted bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoea.
It can infect both males and females and it usually affects the urethra, the rectum or the throat, while in females, gonorrhoea can also infect the cervix. Gonorrhoea is most commonly spread during sexual contact. However, there is a chance for babies to be infected during childbirth if the mother is infected. In babies, gonorrhoea usually affects their eyes.
In most cases, gonorrhoea is a common infection and it does not even cause any symptoms. Nevertheless, treatment is necessary so that to avoid serious and irreversible damages. Abstaining from sex, using a condom if you do have sexual contact and being in a mutually monogamous relationship are the best ways to prevent this sexually transmitted disease.
Gonorrhoea may infect various areas of the body. However, usually it appears in the genital tract.
Genital tract. Men usually present symptoms including painful urination, pus-like discharge from the tip of the penis, and pain or swelling in one testicle. Women usually present symptoms including increased vaginal discharge, painful urination, vaginal bleeding between periods, as well as after vaginal intercourse, pain in the abdominal and pelvic areas.
Rectum. Common symptoms include anal itching, pus-like discharge from the rectum, spots of bright red blood on toilet tissue and/or irritation during bowel movements.
Eyes. When gonorrhoea affects the eyes, it may cause eye pain, sensitivity to light, and pus-like discharge from one or both eyes.
Throat. In this case, symptoms may include a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Joints. If one or more joints become infected by bacteria (septic arthritis), the affected joints may be warm, red, swollen and extremely painful, especially when you move an affected joint.
When to visit the dermatologist
You should arrange an appointment to see your dermatologist-venereologist if you notice signs or symptoms, such as burning sensation during urination or pus-like discharge from the penis, vagina or rectum. It is also necessary to visit your doctor if your sexual partner reveals that s/he has chlamydia, as it may be necessary for you to take antibiotic medication even if you have no symptoms. If you do not follow the treatment it is possible to re-infect your partner once his/her treatment is completed.
Gonorrhoea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoea. Usually the bacterium is transmitted from one person to another during sexual contact, including oral, anal or vaginal intercourse.
Factors that may increase a person’s risk of gonorrhoea infection include the following:
- Young age
- A new sex partner
- Large number of sex partners
- Previous gonorrhoea diagnosis
If gonorrhoea remains untreated it can lead to significant complications, including the following:
Infertility in women. Gonorrhoea can spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease, which may result in scarring of the tubes, greater risk of pregnancy complications and infertility. Pelvic inflammatory disease is a serious infection that requires immediate treatment.
Infertility in men. Men with gonorrhoea can experience epididymitis, i.e. inflammation of a small, coiled tube in the rear portion of the testicles where the sperm ducts are located, the epididymis. Epididymitis is treatable, but if left untreated, it may lead to infertility.
Spread of the infection to the joints and other areas of your body. The bacterium that causes gonorrhoea can spread through the bloodstream and infect other parts of your body, including your joints. Fever, rash, skin sores, joint pain, swelling and stiffness are possible results.
Increased risk of HIV/AIDS. Having gonorrhoea makes you more susceptible to infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that leads to AIDS. People who have both gonorrhoea and HIV are able to pass both diseases more readily to their partners.
Complications in babies. Babies who contract gonorrhoea from their mothers during birth can develop blindness, sores on the scalp and infections.
Preparation for your appointment
Α. At your appointment with the dermatologist-venereologist you should be prepared to answer the following questions:
- When did the first symptoms begin?
- Are the symptoms continuous or occasional?
- Are your symptoms intense?
- Have you had any other sexually transmitted diseases in the past?
Β. Questions you may want to ask your doctor:
- What kinds of tests should I go through?
- Should I be tested for other sexually transmitted infections?
- Should my partner be tested for gonorrhoea?
- How long should I wait before resuming sexual activity?
- What can I do in the future at the level of prevention?
- For which complications should I be alert?
Tests and diagnosis
To determine the presence of the gonorrhoea bacterium in your organism, it is necessary to test a cell sample. The sample can be collected by:
Urine test. This may help identify bacteria in your urethra.
Swab of affected area. A swab of your throat, urethra, vagina or rectum may collect bacteria that can be identified in a laboratory.
Tests for other sexually transmitted diseases. It may be necessary to conduct tests for other sexually transmitted diseases as gonorrhoea increases the risk of such infections, chlamydia mainly that are often accompanying gonorrhoea. It is also recommended to do an HIV test.
Treatments and medications
Treatment for adults. In adults, gonorrhoea is usually treated with antibiotics. Due to the fact that the bacterium has certain drug-resistant strains, it is recommended to follow treatment with injectable ceftriaxone in combination with either azithromycin or doxycycline taken orally.
Treatment for partners. Sexual partners should also follow a treatment regimen following the relevant tests for gonorrhoea, even in cases that no symptoms are present. Treatment is the same and it is necessary to be followed to avoid re-infection of the person that had gonorrhoea first.
Treatment for babies. Babies born by infected mothers should receive medication for their eyes immediately after birth. In case of an eye infection development, babies should necessarily receive treatment with antibiotics.
To reduce the risk of gonorrhoea you can follow the instructions below:
Do not avoid using a condom. Abstaining from sex is the surest way to prevent gonorrhoea. However, if your sex life is active, use a condom during any type of sexual contact, including anal sex, oral sex or vaginal sex.
Ask your partner to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Do not have sexual contacts with partners showing unusual symptoms, such as burning sensation during urination or genital rashes or sores.
Make sure you have regular gonorrhoea screening if you belong in an increased risk group. In this group people with previous gonorrhoea or other STD diagnosis are included, as well as people with a new sex partner and people with multiple sex partners.