Forget the belief that gonorrhea only affects people practicing high-risk sexual behavior. Virtually anyone can contract the disease mainly because the disease continues to spread even among the general population. Within the last three years, the number of registered cases has increased significantly, with most of those infected being between the ages of 20 and 29. In 2011, there were 709 reported cases which by the end of 2012 rose to 1151.
The symptoms may not be immediately apparent
“Doctors are most commonly visited by men, whose symptoms are more apparent, hard to miss and unpleasant. The symptoms that women have are much less apparent” explains CMC venerologist and dermatologist MUDr. Daniela Vaňousová from Prague's Canadian Medical Care clinic. Gonorrhea is characterized in both sexes by a discharge that may not immediately trigger worries in women. Discharges are more common in healthy women, whether they happen to be triggered by harmless infections or physiological discharge in various stages of the menstrual cycle. “In women, gonorrhea can stay undetected for a very long time and without any symptoms at all, while the women can unknowingly spread the disease further” says Daniela Vaňousová.
Urethral discharge as a symptom of gonorrhea also occurs in men, but it is relatively uncommon. This discharge as well as burning and pain in the urethra are the primary symptoms of this disease which usually trigger a visit to a doctor. As explained by Daniela Vaňousová of Canadian Medical Care, “it is always necessary to examine all the recent sexual partners and based on the findings, also treat those who have been infected. However, it is not uncommon for those affected to not know the name of the person who infected them, yet alone have contact information for them.”
Medicine is becoming less and less effective
Gonorrhea can be contracted during random sexual intercourse abroad and it is therefore important to keep that in mind and to always use protection. However, the disease is not only transmitted via classic intercourse, but also during unprotected anal or oral intercourse – many people can actually have gonorrhea in the throat. When compared to chlamydia which is more common and does not need to be reported to the authorities, gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted disease.
Gonorrhea must be treated with antibiotics. However, the disease is recently becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics used in the past and the selection of the correct medication is becoming more difficult. There have been cases where the bacteria has been immune to multiple antibiotics at once as well as those that have been know to work universally.
If left untreated, the disease may develop into chronic gonorrhea
The treatment of gonorrhea should always be left to the specialists, who test and treat all sexual partners, although this may not always be possible. This is not only due to random sexual intercourse, but also because people often do not wish to talk about their sexual life and partners, sometimes because they are afraid to tell their stable partner about it. Further, Canadian Medical Care's Daniela Vaňousová states that “it is not all that uncommon that through high-risk sexual behavior, many more sexually transmitted diseases can be contracted. This does not only apply to gonorrhea but also to syphilis and HIV.”
Gonorrhea is caused by a bacteria called gonococcus (Neisseria gonorrhoeae in Latin), hence where its name is derived from. The disease is mostly associated with the discharge which is caused by purulent inflammation of genital mucosa and excretory organs.
The disease can affect not only the penis or the vagina which is the most common place of occurrence, but also the anus after anal intercourse, the pharynx following oral intercourse or the conjuctiva of the eyes where the infection can be introduced through contact with the hands. If the mother is infected, gonorrhoea can also be introduced into children's eyes during birth.
“If the disease is left untreated, it can transition into pelvic inflammatory disease. In rare cases, both women and men can suffer from gonorrhoea entering in the bloodstream, which can in turn result in a septic shock. Further, the disease can also infect other organs – for example joints. Men most commonly suffer from epididymitis, which is an inflammation of the epididymis of the testicle”, warns the doctor.
Pelvic inflammatory disease manifests itlself in muliple ways. Unfortunately however, gonorrhoea is often missed as the possible cause. Even though untreated gonorrhoea is not fatal in nature, both men and women can become sterile as a result. Gonorrhea can also have indirect psychological implications because it threatens existing relationships.
What you should know about gonorrhea?
- Transmitted by sexual intercourse, usually vaginal, but also oral and anal.
- The incubation period is anywhere between 2 to 6 days.
- Men experience symptoms between the 2nd and 5th day following infection and women between the 4th and 7th day.
- Sometimes, the disease goes unnoticed for months.
- The risk of infection is significantly reduced by using protection during intercourse.
- Gonorrhea is treated by antibiotics.