factsheets on Gonorrhoea
Better known as “the clap,” gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted disease or STD that is spread through contact with bodily fluids. It is considered to be the most common STD in America and probably in the world. In 2008, there were 350,000 recorded cases of the disease in America alone. It is most often found in sexually active teenagers.
A bacterium called Neisseria Gonorrhoea causes gonorrhoea. It multiplies within the damp, warm areas of the body. In men, this includes the urethra, mouth, throat and anus. In women, it can affect these areas plus the womb, cervix and fallopian tubes. It is usually spread through unprotected sexual intercourse between two individuals. This can take the form of oral, vaginal and anal sex. It can also be spread from a mother to her child.
Symptoms are not always present in sufferers of gonorrhoea. Approximately 50% of women will not display any symptoms at all. Some symptoms will develop within one month of infection and these tend to include painful urination, red itchy eyes known as conjunctivitis, bleeding between periods, pelvic and abdominal pain, pain during intercourse, swollen glands and a swollen vulva. If contracted through oral sex one of the symptoms will include a burning sensation in the throat.
As for men, there are several similar symptoms to women such as painful urination and a burning sensation in the throat. Other symptoms include swollen testicles and glands, plus a greenish or yellowish discharge from the penis. Such symptoms tend to develop within two weeks of infection.
A large range of infections display similar symptoms to gonorrhoea. For example, vaginal discharge caused by gonorrhoea is often confused with a yeast infection. As other symptoms can also be symptoms of other infections, the best way to diagnose gonorrhoea is to take a swab sample of bodily fluid to be analyzed. Urine samples, throat and anus cultures can also be taken for analysis. As other STDs can commonly occur at the same time, such as chlamydia (see Chlamydia factsheet), it is important to test for other infections at the same time. Check the HIV factsheet for more testing information.
Curing the clap requires either an oral or an injected antibiotic. As with other STDs, it is important for infected individuals to make other sexual partners aware of an infection. Typically, all sexual partners within three months should be contacted, so they too can be tested. All sexual practises should be abstained from until the condition is cleared up in order to prevent reinfection.
The gonorrhoea prognosis is good. This is a curable disease, so long as the line of antibiotics is kept to and the doctor’s advice is followed. If left untreated gonorrhoea can cause serious problems to men and women. For men, it can lead to epididymitis and infertility, as well as affecting the performance of the prostate. For women, it can infertility, ectopic pregnancies and pelvic inflammatory disease. If gonorrhoea reaches the blood or joints, it can kill.
For more information on STDs and STIs, visit the herpes factsheet.