Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. The infection can be transmitted through vaginal, oral, and/ or anal sex. The bacteria found in the semen or vaginal/ penis discharge of the infected subject gets passed on to a healthy man or woman (partner) during unprotected sexual contact. Usually, the infection remains restricted to the area that comes in direct contact with the infection- causing bacteria. However, when Gonorrhoea is not treated in time, it can also spread to the other parts of the body.
Bacteria which cause Gonorrhoea are found in the genital discharge – penis or vaginal discharge – of the infected people. In case of men, the bacteria are not just present in the semen, but also in the lubricant fluids. These bacteria can easily infect the vagina, penis, or other body parts of the non-infected man or woman during intercourse or oral sex. A soon-to-deliver pregnant woman carrying this infection runs a high risk of passing this infection on to her baby during delivery. This leaves the neonate susceptible to developing neonatal ophthalmia – a severe eye infection. Gonorrhoea has been seen to affect people of any age, yet the most at risk is the sexually active young population.
Gonorrhoea often shows no initial tell-tale symptoms, therefore it generally goes unnoticed. The onset of symptoms normally starts 1-14 days after sexual contact with a gonorrhoea infected person. If the disease has occurred through anal sex, the anus and the rectum of the infected person may get inflamed. This may cause pain, discomfort or discharge. On the other hand, if the bacteria enter the body through oral sex, it may lead to throat infection. When bacteria are transmitted through vaginal intercourse, the symptoms can be different in men and women.
In men, this may cause:
- Unusual and white, yellow or green coloured discharge from the penis.
- Inflammation of the foreskin
- Pain while passing urine
In women, this may cause:
- Pain on passing urine
- Lower abdominal pain
- Unusual thick discharge from vagina that may be yellow or green in colour.
- Irregular vaginal bleeding
If gonorrhoea is not treated well in time, it can lead to further complications. In men, gonorrhoea may seriously infect the testicles and the prostate gland that may, in turn, reduce fertility. In women, this STI can spread to the reproductive organs, and may cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). If attention is still not paid to the infection, gonorrhoea may cause ectopic pregnancy, long-term pelvic pain, and may even lead to infertility.
There’s a distinct possibility that even without any treatment, the symptoms related to Gonorrhoea may begin to fade after a couple of weeks. However, the disappearance of symptoms doesn’t mean that the infection is completely gone. Thus, it’s vital to treat and uproot the infection. Otherwise, it may lead to further complications. A single dose of antibiotics such as ceftiaxone, cefixime, and spectinomycin can treat this disease. They are given orally or as an injection, and these antibiotics clear up the infection within 3-4 days. If it has reached other parts of the body, treatment with intravenous antibiotics is given to the patient in the hospital.
An attack of gonorrhoea and subsequent treatment do not immunise the body against another gonorrhoeal infection. One must practice safe sex to reduce STI risk. Transmission of gonorrhoea can be successfully prevented by:
- being faithful and avoiding sex with multiple partners
- using condoms every time one has vaginal or anal sex
- abstaining from sex till the doctor confirms that one is completely free of the infection
- using water-based lubricants to avoid damage to the rubber in condoms
- avoiding any sexual activity that may damage a condom