April is STD Awareness Month: What do you know about Gonorrhea?

Merely Me Health Guide April 13, 2009
  • I am not sure how many people know that April is STD awareness month.   Sexually Transmitted Diseases used to be called Venereal Disease and in recent times they are sometimes called Sexually Transmitted Infections.  But whatever the name, many of these diseases have been around for hundreds of years and some seem here to stay.  And many STD's aren't just a source of great discomfort and inconvenience.  Some carry severe risks such as cervical cancer in women being linked to the Human Papiloma Virus.  Another potential risk to acquiring an STD may be a sacrifice of your reproductive health.  Some statistics  show that as many as 15% of all infertile American women are infertile because of tubal damage caused by untreated STD.  And 12% of all infertile American men are infertile because of inflammation of the testicles and sterility caused by untreated STD.  And then of course there is AIDS which, if left untreated, can kill you.

     

    So it is clear that STD's can present a serious risk to one's overall health not to mention one's sex life.  STD's are highly communicable and can easily be passed on to others.  Most times the person passing along the STD to their sexual partner doesn't even know they have done so because they are unaware that they have an STD themselves.

    You think it couldn't happen to you?  Guess again.  The CDC reports that 19 million new infections occur in America every year.  Still yet other statistics show that one in four people will have an STD at some point during his or her life.

     

    So getting an STD could definitely happen to you unless you completely abstain from having sex for your entire life.  And for most of us that is not likely.

     

    There are many STD's we can talk about but I am going to focus on one of the more popular STDs which continues to pose a threat to our sexual health.  I am sure many of you have heard of gonorrhea but how much do you know about the ease of which this disease can be transferred to others?  And likewise are you aware of the symptoms of this disease?  Would you know if you had gonorrhea?   I hope to provide some answers within the scope of this article.

     

    What is Gonorrhea? 

    Perhaps you know this  STD by another name, "The Clap."  Of course I had to research why it is named  "The Clap" and found two competing answers.  Some say that the name refers to an old fashioned treatment where they would clear the blockage in the urethra from gonorrhea pus, where the penis would be 'clapped' on both sides simultaneously. Ouch!  That sounds rather painful doesn't it?  Another source says that the name originates from the Old French word "clapoir", which refers to a sexual sore. I suppose each suggestion seems plausible.

     

    But moving right along...

     

    Gonorrhea is a common bacterial STD caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae.  Don't ask me to spell that twice!  This type of bacteria likes to grow in warm, moist areas. And what could be more conducive than your reproductive system 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. But did you know that it can also grow in the mouth, throat eyes, and anus?  Not a pretty picture.

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    How can you get it?

      

    Basically you can get it from contact with an infected person from the vagina, penis. mouth, or anus.  So in answer to your next question, yes you can get it from oral sex.  You could get a gonorrhea infection in your throat this way. 

     

    How common is it? 

     

    It is a pretty infectious disease no doubt about it.  The CDC estimates that more than 700,000 persons in the U.S. get new gonorrheal infections each year.  The rate of infection is still up there in numbers. In 2006, the rate of reported gonorrheal infections was 120.9 per 100,000 individuals.

     

    What are the symptoms?  How do I know if I have it?

      

    Here is the tricky part in that some men and women who have gonorrhea will show no symptoms whatsoever. 

     

    For men:  The symptoms can wait to appear from two to thirty days after the infection.  Some symptoms may include:

     

    • A burning sensation when urinating
    • A white, yellow, or green pus discharge from the penis.
    • Painful or swollen testes.

     

    For women:  (Most women will not have symptoms)

     

    • Painful burning sensation when urinating.
    • Increased vaginal discharge
    • Bleeding between periods

     

    For both sexes an infection of the throat may result in a sore throat but not all the time.  An infection of the rectum may include symptoms of itching, soreness, and even bleeding.

     

    What happens if Gonorrhea goes untreated?

      

    There can be some serious complications.  In women the risk of having untreated gonorrhea is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease which can lead to infertility or heighten the risk of having an ectopic (the egg is implanted in the tubes) pregnancy.  In men gonorrhea can also threaten fertility through inflammation of the ducts leading to the testicles.  If you have untreated gonorrhea, you are also more at risk for acquiring HIV.  And too pregnant women with gonorrhea can pass along the infection to their baby during labor posing severe risks to the infant including blindness or even a life threatening blood infection.

     

    Can you take a test to see if you have it?

      

    One way to test you is to take a sample culture from the parts of the body likely to be infected such as the cervix, urethra, rectum, or throat and send the sample to a laboratory for analysis.  A urine sample may also be used to test for gonorrhea which is present in the cervix or urethra.

     

    Since many people who have gonorrhea do now show visible symptoms,  it may be wise to get tested especially if you have had unprotected sex recently. 

     

      

    How do you get rid of it?

      

    Several types of antibiotics are available to treat gonorrhea.  The CDC reports that if you have gonorrhea it may be likely that you have other STD's as well including Chlamydia.  So if you test positive for gonorrhea you might want to check for other STD's as well and try to treat them at the same time.  They are saying that Gonorrhea has become a growing concern because the bacteria have become resistant to the popular forms of antibiotic treatment.  So whatever medication you are given make sure that you finish taking all the medication or else you run the risk of the infection coming back.  It is also recommended that your sexual partner also receive treatment so that you don't end up passing the disease back and forth.  Just because you get treated for Gonorrhea once does not mean that you can't ever get it again. 

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    Famous People who have had Gonorrhea:

      

    In an article entitled, "Syphilis and Gonorrhea: Old-fashioned and still flourishing" author Evelyn Zamula lists the following historical figures as having had gonorrhea:

     

    • Napolean
    • Adolf Hitler
    • Benito Mussolini

     

    Zamula adds that:  "Thanks to penicillin, which arrived on the scene during World War II, the names of more recent notables who have had these diseases can remain hidden in their doctors' files."

     

    Last words

     

    Latex condoms can go a long way to decrease your chances of acquiring an STD but they are not full proof as they can break and you can also get some STD's through oral sex.  Know your partner and their sexual history.  If you have any symptoms of an STD including burning, itching, pain during intercourse, unusual discharge, sores or rashes then consult your doctor right away.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

     

    Resources:

     

    Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

     

     

    American Social Health Association