What is Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is the most common type of STD in Indonesia, and the second most common STD in the world. It is caused by bacteria and can be transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex.
Usually infection with gonorrhea doesn’t have any symptoms. However, even if asymptomatic, infection with gonorrhea can lead to long term problems such as pain. The good news is that gonorrhea is detectable, treatable and preventable. Use of barrier methods of contraception, like condoms, reduce the rates of transmission and antibiotics can effectively treat gonorrhea infections.
Signs and Symptoms
Gonorrhea infection can occur in the urethra for men, cervix for women and can occur in the rectum and throat for both. It is important to note that symptoms may not be noticeable or tend to be mild.
Common symptoms for men include:
- Abnormal urethral and/or anus discharge
- Painful urination
- Urinate more frequently
- Pain in the testicles
- Swelling and redness of the penis
- Persistent sore throat
Common symptoms for women include:
- Abnormal vaginal and/or anus discharge
- Urinate more frequently
- Painful urination or burning sensation
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Vaginal bleeding outside normal menstruation
- Pelvic or lower abdominal pain
- Sore throat
If left untreated, gonorrhea can have long term consequences.
- Infection and infertility
In women, the infection can spread upwards to the uterus and fallopian tubes causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to inflammation, infertility or chronic pain.
In men, the infection can cause epididymitis (inflammation of the tube at the back of the testis), penile oedematous (swelling of the penis) and penile lymphangitis (legion of the penis) if they contract a urethral infection from gonorrhoea (Sherrard, 2014).
- Risk to pregnant women and their babies
Untreated mothers can pass gonorrhea infections to their babies. This can lead to eye disease which is usually identified 1 to 4 days after birth based on swelling, redness and discharge from eyelids. Without quick treatment, this can lead to blindness.
- Though rare, other long term consequences of untreated gonorrhea include arthritis, heart valve damage or inflammation of the lining of the brain or spinal cord.
Testing for gonorrhea is a simple process that can be done by your healthcare provider. If you are concerned you may have gonorrhea, have any symptoms or if your partner has an STD, getting tested is important for your health.
The most common test to detect gonorrhea is a urine test. This test can also look for infection with chlamydia. Gonorrhea can also be detected by taking a sample of cells with a swab. In women a swab can be taken from the throat, cervix, vagina or anus. In men a swab can be taken from the throat, urethra or anus.
People who are at higher risk for gonorrhea infection should get tested regularly, this includes people who:
- Are sexually active
- Have more than one sex partner
- Have a partner with an STD
- Are a man who has sex with men
To read more about testing for STDs and how to get tested click here.
Antibiotics are the simplest form of treatment for gonorrhoea, which can be taken in a single dose by either an injection or pills.
Studies have shown that the bacteria that causes gonorrhea have become resistant to several antibiotics that were used in the past. Which is why it is important to take the antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor as directed.
A common question is when is it safe to have sex again after being infected. Usually it is recommended to avoid sexual intercourse until the infection is cleared, this includes oral sex and condom sex. This all depends on your doctor’s advice and the antibiotics you are taking.
Usually a 2-week follow up will be undertaken to ensure effectiveness of medication. It is common to get a repeat infection and so testing about three months after treatment is also recommended.
To prevent the spread of gonorrhea a number of things can be done. Telling your partner they may be infected is important to prevent getting gonorrhea again and stop other people from being infected. If you find out you have gonorrhea, all sexual partners from the last 2 months should be informed so they can be tested and treated.
To prevent being infected, it is best to practice safe sex. Condoms are effective at reducing the risk of catching or spreading chlamydia, during vaginal, anal or oral sex.