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Sunday, March 30, 2008

GONORRHOEA

What is gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). This means that you get it by having oral, anal, or vaginal sex with someone who has gonorrhoea. It’s caused by a type of bacteria that can grow in warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, like the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes in women as well as the urethra in men and women. Gonorrhoea can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus.

How do you get gonorrhoea?

This STD is spread through contact with an infected vagina, penis, anus, or mouth. It is spread through semen or vaginal fluids during unprotected sexual contact with a partner who has it. Touching infected sex organs, like the vagina or penis, and then touching your eyes can cause an eye infection. It cannot be passed by shaking hands or sitting on a toilet seat.

Gonorrhoea can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby during the birth process through a vaginal delivery. In babies, gonorrhoea infection may cause blindness, joint infection, or a life threatening blood infection.

Who is at risk for gonorrhoea?

Any sexually active person can be infected with gonorrhoea. In the United States, the highest reported rates of infection are among sexually active teenagers, young adults, and African Americans.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhoea?

Most women who have gonorrhoea have no symptoms. When a woman does have symptoms, they most often appear within 10 days of getting the STD.

A woman may have these symptoms:

  • Pain or burning when passing urine
  • Vaginal discharge that is yellow or sometimes bloody
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Heavy bleeding with periods
  • Pain during sex

Any genital symptoms such as discharge, burning during urination, or pain during sex should be a signal to stop having sex and to see a doctor right away. Women with gonorrhoea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, whether or not there are symptoms.

Men and women with an anal infection might have symptoms that may include discharge, soreness, bleeding, or itching of the anus, and painful bowel movements. Infections in the throat may cause a sore throat but usually cause no symptoms. With an eye infection, symptoms may include redness, itching, or discharge from the eye.

Are there tests for gonorrhoea?

Yes. There are three types of tests for gonorrhoea:

  • Swab sample. A swab sample from the part of the body likely to be infected (cervix, urethra, penis, rectum, or throat) can be sent to a lab for testing.
  • Urine test. Gonorrhoea in the cervix or urethra can be diagnosed with a urine sample sent to a lab.
  • Gram stain. This is done right in a clinic or doctor's office. A sample from the urethra or a cervix is placed on a slide and stained with dye. It allows the doctor to see the bacteria under a microscope. This test works better for men than for women.

Talk to your doctor about getting tested if you have any symptoms of gonorrhoea, if you think you or your partner could have it, or if you know your partner has it.

How is gonorrhoea treated?

Antibiotics are used to cure gonorrhoea. Many people who have gonorrhoea also have another STD called chlamydia. Doctors often give a combination of antibiotics to treat both STDs. Finish all the medicine that you are prescribed by your doctor. Even if the symptoms go away, you still need to finish all of the medicine. If symptoms continue after receiving treatment, see your doctor. Although antibiotics can cure the infection, they do not repair any permanent damage done by the disease.

If you have gonorrhoea, talk with all of your sexual partners. They should get tested and treated for gonorrhoea, even if they don’t have any symptoms. Also avoid sexual contact until you and your partner(s) have been treated and cured. People who have had gonorrhoea and received treatment may get infected again if they have sexual contact with a person who has gonorrhoea.

What happens if gonorrhoea isn't treated?

Gonorrhoea that is not treated can cause these serious problems in women:

  • Increased risk of getting HIV or spreading HIV
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection in a woman's pelvic organs, like the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Women with PID do not necessarily have symptoms. When symptoms are present, they can be severe and can include abdominal pain, fever, backache, irregular periods, pain during sex, and vaginal discharge. This infection can lead to infertility. It can also cause ectopic pregnancy, in which an egg implants in the fallopian tube. This can cause miscarriage and possibly death of the mother. PID can also cause long-lasting, chronic pelvic pain.
  • Widespread infection to other parts of the body, like the blood, joints, or heart
Can gonorrhoea cause problems during pregnancy?

Yes. A pregnant woman with untreated gonorrhoea may be at risk for miscarriage, preterm delivery, or having her water break too early. If a pregnant woman has gonorrhoea, she may give the infection to her baby as the baby passes through the birth canal during delivery. This can cause blindness, joint infection, or a life-threatening blood infection in the baby. Treating the newborn’s eyes with an antibiotic immediately after delivery can prevent serious eye infections. Treatment of gonorrhoea as soon as it is found in pregnant women will reduce the risk of these health problems. All sex partners of pregnant women must also be treated for gonorrhoea. Pregnant women should talk with their doctors for testing and treatments that are safe for them.

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