What is Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is a sexually-transmitted infection caused by a bacteria that is commonly spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can affect men and women of all ages, including infants who may be affected by their mothers during childbirth.
Signs and Symptoms
Depending on where the infection is, signs and symptoms of gonorrhea may vary:
- Pain during urination
- Pus-like discharge from the tip of the penis (in men)
- Pain or swelling in one testicle (in men)
- Increased vaginal discharge (in women)
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods (in women)
- Abdominal or pelvic pain (in women)
- Anal itching
- Pus-like discharge from the rectum
- Bright red blood observed in stool
- Having to strain during bowel movements
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Eye pain
- Sensitivity to light
- Pus-like discharge from one or both eyes.
- Warm, red, swollen joints
- Extreme pain in joints, especially during movement
- Sexually active women younger than 25
- Men who have sex with men
- Having a new sex partner
- Having a sex partner who has other partners
- Having more than one sex partner
- Having had gonorrhea or another sexually transmitted infection
Diagnoses and Tests
To determine whether you have gonorrhea, a sample of cells will be collected from the affected area and analysed. Samples can be collected by:
A. Urine test
As gonorrhea can occur in the urethra (part of the urinary tract), a urine test tests for any presence of bacteria in your urethra. It requires a test sample of a person’s urine, typically the first part of the urine stream, to be collected and tested.
However, some factors can affect the results of this test. Hence, it is recommended to avoid urinating within 2 hours prior to testing, and women should not douche or use any vaginal products within 24 hours prior to testing.
B. Swab of the affected area
To collect any presence of bacteria which can be identified in a laboratory, a swab of the affected area can be carried out using a cotton bud-like tool. For men, a sample can be collected by taking discharge from the end of the penis. For women, a sample can be collected from the vagina, cervix (entrance to the womb), or urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body). For both men and women, if signs and symptoms of anal or oral infection are observed, a sample from these areas may be collected to be tested as well.
C. Home Test Kits
Home Test Kits come in two forms: one that collects and tests urine samples, and one that requires the person to swab the affected area. They come in simple kits with detailed instructions on how to collect samples. Once you have collected the samples, the samples should be returned for laboratory testing, as instructed in the kit.
Gonorrhea is the second-most common sexually-transmitted disease diagnosed among people in Singapore, following the most common sexually-transmitted disease, chlamydia. Discovering gonorrhea and treating it is especially important as complications can arise if left untreated:
- Infertility. Gonorrhea can cause inflammation in the uterus and fallopian tubes in women, as well as the epididymis in men. If left untreated, the inflammation can result in complications that may result in infertility.
- Infection that spreads to other parts of your body. The bacterium that causes gonorrhea can spread through the bloodstream and possibly result in major complications.
- Increased risk of other sexually transmitted infections. Having gonorrhea makes you more susceptible to infection with other sexually-transmitted infections such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can lead to AIDS.
- Complications in babies. Gonorrhea can infect babies during birth as the infant passes through the birth canal, and may cause them to have blindness, sores on their scalp, and infections
There are no at-home remedies or over-the-counter medications that have been proven to treat gonorrhea. The only proven treatment is antibiotics, which may be administered as an injection or taken orally. There is a common belief that mouthwash is able to cure gonorrhea, but these beliefs have yet to be proven with scientific evidence.
As the saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure.” To keep yourself and your partner safe from gonorrhea, practise the following prevention methods:
- Abstinence from sexual contact
- Use a condom during any form of sexual contact
- Refrain from having multiple sex partners
- Have regular gonorrhea screening
- Ensure that you and your partner are safe from any sexually-transmitted infections
- To avoid getting gonorrhea again, abstain from sexual contact until after you and your sex partner are completely cured.