Diagnosing & Treating Gonorrhea

February 4, 2010

Rising Rates Of Infection World Wide

The rates of infection from the sexually transmitted disease, gonorrhea, have been on the rise again. In the US they had been brought under control through a national gonorrhea control program established in the 1970s. However, since 2005, the incidence rate of gonorrhea in the US has begun to climb again.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium that grows easily and quickly in the moist areas of the reproductive organs of a woman and in the urinary tract and anus of both men and women. It can also be transmitted to the throat, eyes, and mouth. It is not necessary for a man to ejaculate in order to transmit the disease, contact with an infected person is enough. It is highly contagious. Mothers can pass the infection to their babies during the birthing procedure.

The complications and serious ramifications of untreated gonorrhea include pelvic inflammatory disease in women and duct inflammation in men-both of which lead to infertility. Should the disease get into the blood stream or joints, the effects can be devastating. Gonorrhea also opens the door to HIV infection, which is the precursor to AIDS.

Diagnosing Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can be diagnosed through laboratory testing from swabs taken from the parts of the body likely to be infected. A sample from the cervix, urethra, rectum, or throat, is taken by a doctor or nurse and then sent for analysis. A urine sample can disclose the presence of gonorrhea that is in the cervix or urethra as can a Gram stain, which is another quick diagnostic test that can be performed in a clinic or the doctor's office. The Gram test allows the doctor to see the bacterium under a microscope and is most effective for diagnosing the disease in men. It is appropriate for a person who is being tested for gonorrhea to be tested for chlamydia at the same time, since the two often appear together.

Treating Gonorrhea

Antibiotics are usually the best way to deal with the infection in both adolescents and adults. However, there are several strains of gonorrhea that have become drug resistant and this situation is becoming more prevalent all over the world. Drug resistance makes treatment more difficult and since sexually transmitted diseases often appear in multiples, testing should be done to ensure that all infections are being addressed. It is also important that the full course of antibiotics be taken. Some people stop the prescription too soon, since they feel better and the symptoms have disappeared, and the infection doesn't go away. Medication can stop the infection, but the damage done as a result of the infection is irreparable. Reinfection can happen by exposure to an infected person.

Can It Be Prevented?

The most effective way to avoid contracting gonorrhea, or any other sexually transmitted disease, is to abstain from sexual intercourse or to be in a mutually monogamous, long-term, relationship with a partner who is not infected. Latex condoms, if used properly and consistently, can also provide a reduction in the risk of transmission of gonorrhea. If a person has been diagnosed and treated for gonorrhea, all of the people they were sexually involved with should be notified in order for them to get treatment and reduce the spreading of the disease. The infected person and all of his or her sexual partners should avoid sexual activity until the infection is totally treated.

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