Gonorrhea (AKA “the clap”) is estimated by the CDC to infect 700,000 Americans a year, and over half have no idea that they are infected, allowing for the infection to spread to other partners and the babies of pregnant women. Yikes! Sadly, these infections are on the rise worldwide, despite STD education being promoted by HCP’s and starting at younger ages. Parents need to start having these conversations at a younger age too…so my goal is to give you the facts and let you know how the infection can occur, your risks and preventions, but also give you info, if you are a parent, to give to your kids.
What is a gonorrhea infection?
It is an STD from the Neisseria Gonorrhoeae bacteria that can be transmitted with equal rates to men and women from oral, anal, and vaginal sex that has a 2-10 day incubation period that can infect the urethra, rectum, and throat. Women have the ability to also contract cervical infections and if they contract the infection whilst pregnant, the babies can have vision problems and eventually go blind if the infection isn’t treated. Also, it can cause pre-term labor. Having one STD puts you at a higher risk for contracting another STD, especially HIV.
Pus colored discharge from the tip of the penis
Pain or swelling in one testicle
Women (urethra or cervix):
Increased vaginal discharge (may smell differently and have different color/consistency)
Vaginal bleeding between periods and/or after sexual intercourse
Pelvic pain (during sex)
In the rectum:
Pus like discharge
Straining when needing to poop
Bloody stains on toilet paper
Red, sore throat
Swollen lymph nodes
**There may also be very subtle symptoms that you miss, best idea is to get checked for STD’s regularly if you have unprotected sex in any form with different partners.
What are common Risk Factors?
Previous Gonorrhea infection
New Sex partner
Multiple sexual partners
The most major long-term complications for both men and women is infertility. It can also cause chronic pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women. As well, the bacteria, when left untreated, can get into the bloodstream and go into your joints and cause swelling, stiffness, and pain along with fevers, rashes, and skin sores as the infection spreads. All of these infections can be spread to babies at birth in untreated infected mothers and cause these same complications (along with blindness). And, as stated above, having this untreated infection, puts you at a much higher risk to contract HIV/AIDS and the disease can progress faster due to an already decreased immune system.
How is it diagnosed?
Gonorrhea is diagnosed through a urine test and/or by swabbing the area (even if discharge isn’t present. Most often, your HCP will draw some blood to also check for other STD’s, just to be safe and ensure that you are being treated appropriately.
You will get either an oral or injected antibiotic (penicillin is cheapest and easiest, but due to allergies, your HCP may choose a different antibiotic for you). As well, not only you but your partner also needs to be treated, even if they have no symptoms so that you don’t get reinfected or spread the infection. Babies at risk are usually treated with antibiotic ointment to their eyes at birth and if they show other signs of infection are given further antibiotic treatment.
USE PROTECTION! It is the best way to prevent STD’s if you are sexually active. You should get tested regularly if you are sexually active, even if you use protection, with multiple partners, and ask your partners if they get tested, when the last time they were tested, and if they have ever had an STD. If you are hooking up with someone and notice something that looks a little strange anywhere in their genitals, just stop…ask them about it, and just think about calling it a night there- totally not worth it to carry on and put yourself at risk for anything!
These infections are on the rise for many reasons, but one of which is that many teens “don’t count” oral sex as sex; it is still sex and you can contract STD’s. There is no form of sex with multiple partners that is safe unless you use protection. Despite HCP’s talking to teens at younger ages, and discussing these issues with single adults, we need people to use common sense (i.e. if something doesn’t look right, stop) and get regular screening. We need parents to talk to their children, or have an adult that their child feels comfortable with talk to them about their risks and prevention, and know that there are free STD clinics that they can go to for testing, but they will usually need parents permission before treatment (but that is a state by state issue). But, this information on risks, symptoms, and prevention needs to get out there to the general public so that we can get more people regularly screened, and be aware of the signs of the infections.
So, now YOU know! Talk to your friends, partners, etc and go get tested and treated (both you and your partner), and please check out your partners junk before you hook up…and save yourself the trip to the clinic if it looks funky!
Yours in Good Health