Gonorrhea

Definition

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. This bacterial infection affects both women and men. Gonorrhea usually affects the genital tract involving the urethra (the tube connecting the urinary bladder to the genitals), throat, or rectum. In females, cervical infections of gonorrhea are also seen.

Gonorrhea is a common infection. In some cases gonorrhea can be asymptomatic.A complication associated with gonorrhea is the increased risk of co-infection with Chlamydia trachomatis in majority of patients.

Symptoms

Many people suffering from gonorrhea have no symptoms or minimal symptoms. This can be misleading and treatment may therefore be delayed.

Genito-urinary tract

Gonorrhea infection in men presents following symptoms:

  • Pain while urination
  • Pus-like discharge from penile tip
  • Swelling or pain in one testicle

Symptoms of gonorrhea infection in women are:

  • Discharge from vagina
  • Pain while urination
  • Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain

Rectum

  • Pus-like discharge from the rectum
  • Anal itching
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Straining during bowel movements

Eye

  • Pain in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Pus-like discharge in one or both eyes

Throat

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen neck lymph nodes

Joint

Upon bacterial infection, warmth, redness, and swelling in the joints are noticed, accompanied by pain during movements.

In rare cases, gonorrhea affects skin. If it does, it causes sores on the skin accompanied by fever.

Causes

Gonorrhea results from the bacterial infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The bacteria is spread through sexual contact including vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse.In infants born to mothers suffering from gonorrhea, the infection develops on the eyelids.

A younger onset of sexual activity, multiple sex partners, unprotected sex, and previous episodes of unprotected gonorrhea infection are the known risk factors. It is may also be more likely to occur in the backdrop of other sexually transmitted infections.

Gonorrhea screenings should be done in case of an increased gonorrhea risk arising in the following situations:

  • A history of sexually transmitted infections
  • Sex with a new, or multiple partners
  • Onset of sexual activity or pregnancy at very young age

It is also recommended that HIV testing be conducted.

Treatment

The treatment for gonorrhea may vary depending on the age of the patient and the sites that are affected.

Adults

Injections or oral doses of antibiotics are frequently recommended for controlling gonorrhea infection. Cephalosporins are the main line of treatment and a single dose of ceftriaxone or cefixime is usually sufficient to control the infection.

At the time of treating gonorrhea infection, patients are also given a single dose of azithromycin to treat chlamydial infection as it often co-exists with gonorrhea infection.

Infants

Babies born to gonorrhea-infected mothers are given medications to prevent eye infection. The eye infections are treated with antibiotics.

Partners

The sexual partners should also undergo gonorrhea testing and treatment. This is important even in asymptomatic cases. Expedited partner therapy (EPT) is followed frequently. It involves delivering anti-gonorrhea drugs to the partners of the patients. EPT reduces the risks of re-infection.

Prevention

Measures like abstinence from sex or engaging in protected sex, involving use of a condom during vaginal, anal or oral sex prevent gonorrhea infection.

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