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Could your sexual habits put you at risk for gonorrhoea?

GonorrheaIt's not only the dangers of contracting HIV/AIDS or even an unknown pregnancy when you have unprotected sex. There are a number of diseases that are transmitted via sexual contact with an infected person. In India, although the number of people suffering from gonorrhea is dropping, it is still a condition that most people suffer from and don't even know about it. Here is a post on all you need to know about gonorrhoea.

What is gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by sexual contact with an infected person. Caused by an organism known as Neisseriagonorrheae, the disease can be transmitted by contact with body fluids as well. The organism multiplies well in warm and moist parts of the reproductive tract like the vagina, uterus, cervix, Fallopian tubes, and urethra of both men and women. It is also known to grow in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus.

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How is it transmitted?

A person who is sexually active and has multiple sexual partners are most prone to this condition. The CDC recently estimated that approximately 19 million people get infected with gonorrhoea every year*. The bacterium is transmitted by sexual contact with a person who already has the disease. Sexual contact includes penetrative sex, oral sex or anal sex. The infection can even get transmitted from one partner to the other by a mere exchange of body fluids. It also can infect a new born born to a mother suffering from the condition during child birth.

Symptoms

Gonorrhoea is one of the most under-diagnosed STDs. In most cases people don't have any perceivable symptoms, but the most common amongst men is to have severe burning sensation while passing urine, and in most cases they will notice a whitish or greenish discharge from the penis. In some cases they may also experience painful and swollen testis. Men will usually notice these symptoms one to 14 days after being infected.

In the case of women the symptoms are usually milder and are most often confused with a urinary tract infection or a vaginal infection. The most common symptoms in women are - experiencing a burning sensation while passing urine, increased amounts of vaginal discharge, and vaginal bleeding between periods.

Apart from the above symptoms, in cases of gonorrheal infection of the anus both men and women are likely to experience symptoms such as anal discharge, itching in the anal mouth, soreness, bleeding or painful bowel movements.

In the case of gonorrhea of the throat, the person may experience soreness of the throat.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of gonorrhoea is usually a very simple procedure. Usually a urine sample should suffice to diagnose the condition. In cases where a person has had oral or anal sex, the technician will either take a throat or anal swab. If the doctor suspects that a patient is suffering from uterine or urethral gonorrhea, he may advise the technician to take a swab sample from either the urethra in the case of men and the cervical opening in the case of women.

Treatment

A doctor will treat gonorrhoea with a number of antibiotics like doxycycline and cephalosporin. These drugs are to not to be shared with anyone else and it is important that a patient completes the entire course of treatment. Leaving the medical regime incomplete could lead to antibiotic resistance.

Although antibiotics are the most effective against this organism, a new cephalosporin-resistant strain of the bacterium has emerged. Since the discovery of this form of the bacterium, a number of governments have altered their antibiotic regimen.

In some cases a person may suffer from a chlamydia infection along with gonorrhoea, in such a case a doctor may prescribe medicines for both conditions at the same time. While being treated for gonorrhoea the regimen could vary from a single dose of antibiotics to a long term regimen.

Complications

Untreated gonorrhea can cause severe and sometimes life threatening complications in both men and women.

In the case of women, they may develop a condition called PID or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. This occurs when the infection travels to the uterus and Fallopian tubes. The symptoms usually include severe pain in the uterus and several complications like the formation of internal abscesses, this is an extremely complicated and difficult condition to treat. It causes the formation of pus filled abscess within the uterus. Another condition is chronic pelvic pain, a very painful condition that is again very difficult to cure. PID in itself also increases the chances of a woman's Fallopian tubes being severely damaged, which increases the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy or possibly losing the ability to become a mother all together.

In men untreated gonorrhoea could lead to a condition calledepididymitis, which is an infection of the tubes that connect the testis to the penis. This infection wreaks havoc within the man's body and could lead to infertility.

Another very severe complication of this disease is that it can spread throughout the entire body through the blood into the joints, skin or heart. This condition is also known as DGI or Disseminated gonococcal infection and could be life threatening if not treated promptly.

Preventive measures

The best prevention a person can take is to use a condom while having sex. Research has proved that condoms are the best device when it comes to protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Another way would be, to avoid having sex with multiple partners and to avoid sexual contact with unknown partners.

A person who has been diagnosed with gonorrhea should inform all their sexual partners to get tested for the same. People who have had the disease should not engage in sexual activity till they have completed their antibiotic course and are completely free of the symptoms. If a person'sprescribed treatment consists of a single dose of antibiotics, he/she should ideally wait for at least seven days before engaging in sexual activities.

Lastly, gonorrhoea is a condition that has the potential to make a person more susceptible to HIV and AIDS. So remember, prevention is always better than cure.

* Statistic source: www.cdc.gov

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