Is gonorrhea still one of the “leading STDs?”
Gonorrhea is actually the number-one infectious disease among those classed as “reportable” by the CDC. In other words, any health care provider diagnosing a case of gonorrhea must report the case to the local public health authorities. This way, local health departments have accurate numbers to track the spread of gonorrhea in a given community and can take steps to contain it.
There are an estimated 800,000 new gonorrhea infections every year, about half of which are officially reported. Much like chlamydia, gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that is asymptomatic in up to three-quarters of women, yet it can damage the reproductive system over the long term, leading to infertility or other reproductive tract disorders. In men, the number of asymptomatic carriers is put at less than 5%.
How is gonorrhea transmitted?
Gonorrhea typically resides in mucous membranes such as the urethral canal and the vagina and is spread through unprotected intercourse–vaginal, oral or anal.
What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?
The word gonorrhea comes from the Greek term meaning “flow of seed,” referring to the discharge that is often found in those infected. When symptoms are present, they include the following:
- – Painful urination
- – Abnormal vaginal discharge
- – Bleeding between menstrual periods
- – Lower abdominal pain
- – Painful urination or discharge with urination
As an oral infection, gonorrhea can cause sore throat. Rectal symptoms may also occur in some cases, but these are relatively uncommon, especially in women.
How is gonorrhea diagnosed?
Typically, a health care professional swabs a woman’s cervix or a man’s urethra. The resulting sample can be tested by means of a culture or examined under a microscope with a stain that picks up evidence of gonorrhea. As with chlamydia, the future probably holds widespread use of urine tests for gonorrhea.
How is gonorrhea treated?
Gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics–though in some cases treatment is complicated because some strains of gonorrhea are resistant to standard treatments. Several single-dose therapies are available as well as one-week regimens. Today’s treatments for gonorrhea cure the disease in more than 95% of patients with a single round of therapy. Others may require several different regimens before a complete cure is possible.
It seems like chlamydia and gonorrhea are very similar. Do health care providers have trouble telling them apart?
Based on symptoms alone, yes. What’s more, the two STDs are often found in the same people. Between 20 and 40% of those infected with gonorrhea also are infected with chlamydia. For this reason, it’s common practice in many clinics to treat both infections simultaneously. This often means single-dose therapy for gonorrhea, followed by a week of antibiotics for chlamydia.