Types of STIs
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Gonorrhea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix (opening to the womb), uterus (womb), and fallopian tubes (egg canals) in women, and in the urethra (urine canal) in women and men. The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus.
Gonorrhea is a very common infectious disease. CDC estimates that more than 700,000 persons in the U.S. get new gonorrheal infections each year. Only about half of these infections are reported to CDC.
- Frequently asymptomatic (no symptoms)
- Discharge from penis, vagina, or rectum and burning or itching during urination
- Sore throat
If left untreated, gonorrhea may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. It can also cause arthritis.
How is it spread?
Gonorrhea is spread through contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus. Ejaculation does not have to occur for gonorrhea to be transmitted or acquired. Gonorrhea can also be spread from mother to baby during delivery.
People who have had gonorrhea and received treatment may get infected again if they have sexual contact with a person infected with gonorrhea.
Any sexually active person can be infected with gonorrhea. In the United States, the highest reported rates of infection are among sexually active teenagers and young adults.
What are the effects on gonorrhea?
- Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men.
- In women, gonorrhea is a common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Women with PID do not necessarily have symptoms. PID can damage the fallopian tubes enough to cause infertility. PAMF recommends yearly chlamydia testing of all sexually active women age 25 or younger.
- In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the testicles that can lead to infertility if left untreated.
- Gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints. This condition can be life threatening. In addition, people with gonorrhea can more easily contract HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV-infected people with gonorrhea are more likely to transmit HIV to someone else.
- The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain from sexual intercourse, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
- Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of gonorrhea.
- Any genital symptoms such as discharge or burning during urination or unusual sore or rash should be a signal to stop having sex and to see a doctor immediately. If a person has been diagnosed and treated for gonorrhea, he or she should notify all recent sex partners so they can see a health care provider and be treated. This will reduce the risk that the sex partners will develop serious complications from gonorrhea and will also reduce the person's risk of becoming re-infected. The person and all of his or her sex partners must avoid sex until they have completed their treatment for gonorrhea.
Several antibiotics can successfully cure gonorrhea in adolescents and adults. However, drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea are increasing in many areas of the world, including the United States, and successful treatment of gonorrhea is becoming more difficult. Because many people with gonorrhea also have chlamydia, another sexually transmitted disease, antibiotics for both infections are usually given together. Persons with gonorrhea should be tested for other STDs.
It is important to take all of the medication prescribed to cure gonorrhea. Although medication will stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent damage done by the disease.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Infectious Diseases
http://www.cdc.gov/ std/Gonorrhea/STDFact-gonorrhea.htm, Last accessed December 2005
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