Overview – What is it?
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria. It can be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person and it affects the cervix, urethra and rectum. Some of the signs of this disease include abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis and pain during urination.
There are several ways to test for gonorrhoea including a swab, or testing a urine sample, after which antibiotics are given if the tests are positive.
Practising safe sex, doing regular check-ups if you are sexually active, and ensuring that your sexual partner is tested, are some of the ways you can prevent yourself from getting infected with gonorrhoea.
Causes – What causes it?
Gonorrhoea is caused by bacteria which is transmitted sexually (through oral, anal or genital sex) because the bacteria (known as gonococcus) is found in discharges from the penis and in vaginal fluid. Sharing of sex toys can also lead to transmission of the gonorrhoea-causing bacteria. These bacteria infect the urethra, cervix, the rectum and, in rare cases, infect the throat and eyes. A mother can pass this disease to her baby which can lead to the baby being blind. Gonorrhoea is however, not transmitted through kissing, hugging, or sharing baths or towels, cups, plates and cutlery.
Symptoms – What do you feel?
When a person gets infected with gonorrhoea, the symptoms may appear within 10 days or even after months. These are some of the symptoms:
- Thick and green or yellow abnormal vaginal discharge,
- Pain in the lower abdomen,
- Pain during urination,
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse,
- Bleeding between periods, and
- Experiencing heavy periods.
- A white, yellow or green abnormal discharge from the tip of the penis,
- Pain in the testicles,
- Pain during urination, and
- Inflammation of the foreskin.
If the infected semen or vaginal fluid enters the eyes, one can get inflammation of the eyes (conjunctivitis), and if it enters the mouth through oral sex, one can get a throat infection and an infection in the rectum causing discomfort, bleeding and pain.
The symptoms for this disease vary from one person to another and therefore, when you start to experience some of them, it is advisable to see a doctor to get a diagnosis of what exactly you are suffering from.
Diagnosis – How do you diagnose it?
Diagnosis is made through using a microscope to look at samples of discharge from the cervix or urethra, and if it has affected those parts as well, the throat, rectum and eyes.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
Gonorrhoea is treated using antibiotics usually through injection and a single dose of tablets. Babies who show gonorrhoea signs at birth or who have been infected by their mothers with the disease are given antibiotics immediately they are born. If a person with gonorrhoea does not get treated, there are a number of complications that can arise, including:
- Increased risk of getting other STIs such as HIV,
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (infection of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes) in women,
- Miscarriage and premature labour, and a risk of the baby developing conjunctivitis,
- Infertility in men due to untreated swelling of the scrotum (epididymitis),
- Spreading of the gonorrhoea to other parts of the body causing inflammation and swelling of joints, irritation and redness of the skin and meningitis or inflammation around the heart.
Prevention- How do you prevent it?
You can prevent yourself from getting gonorrhoea by doing the following:
- Practising safe sex including when having oral sex,
- Limiting your number of sexual partners,
- Ensuring that you and your partner get tested before starting to engage in sexual intercourse and have regular tests thereafter,
- Ensuring that you do not engage in sex until the antibiotic treatment is completed, if you are already being treated for gonorrhoea,
- Having a follow-up test to be sure that the infection is completely cleared if you have received treatment for gonorrhoea,
- Avoiding sharing sex toys.