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Gonorrhea: Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on March 9, 2008

Gonorrhea’s another little nasty that’s been around forever. It’s spread via the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and the CDC estimates 700,000 new cases every year. Which, of course, doesn’t include all the people who have no idea they have it and have had it for years.

Note: This is also the STD the Fonz would have called The Clap.

How do I get it?

Basically, any kind of contact with genitalia, or an infected throat. It’s very important to note this can be transmitted via pre-ejaculate, as well. As with many STD’s this is not limited to a single sexual population – everyone and anyone can get this, including virgins who limit themselves to heavy petting, if the petting includes genital contact.

What are the symptoms?

As with Chlamydia, there often aren’t any. If there are, men may experience pain while urinating, as well as a possible discharge. The testicles are sometimes affected as well, presenting with swelling or pain. The symptoms are the same in women (um, minus the testicle pain) but women usually don’t have any symptoms at all. And, if they do, it’s usually mistaken for a UTI or allergic vaginitis, as a burning sensation during urination can mean these as well. Infections of the rectum can be asymptomatic, or may show signs of pain, itiching, discharge or bleeding.

Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea

What’s the worst that can happen to me?

In rare cases, it can kill you. Yes, that’s right – if left untreated, it can progress to the point it spreads to the blood. You don’t want that, believe me. More commonly, it does the following: In females, it causes Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (just like Chlamydia does) which can then lead to scarring of the fallopian tubes, followed by eventual infertility. In men, it can infect the testicles, which can also lead to infertility if untreated.

How do I get tested?

Women can get swabbed during their routine GYN exam, or they can give their doctor or local STD clinic a urine sample. Men can do the same. It’s too easy, really, there isn’t an excuse to go untested!

What if I have it?

You get treated. However, due to the average Joe not taking his meds properly (to completion), Gonorrhea is now becoming highly resistant. Cipro used to be a common cure – the CDC now recommends against using it. There are still things like Rocephin around, but there aren’t any new meds out there for combating Gonorrhea. So if you get it, make damned sure you take ALL of the meds prescribed, and take them exactly when you’re told to. If you don’t, you’re only adding to the microbial resistance. As of now, it’s still treatable. Imagine if it weren’t!

How can I prevent it?

Condoms help, but as it’s transmissible through genital contact that doesn’t involve intercourse, there’s obviously no way to guarantee prevention. The best you can do is talk to your partner and ask them to get tested before you start a sexual relationship. And you should be getting tested at least once a year, yourself.

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