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It was a wild night although you know that having that one night stand without any form of protection was risky. You are afraid of catching an STD but you dismissed the fact of actually acquiring it from a one-time deal. However, a few days later, you notice that you are having difficulty urinating – painful even, and there’s a yellowish, foul-smelling discharge coming out of your vagina or penis. You hurriedly went to see a doctor only to find out that your worst nightmare has come true. It’s an STD alright by the name gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea is one of the most, if not, the most common sexually-transmitted diseases affecting millions of men and women all over the world. Neisseria gonorrheae, the causative agent of gonorrhea is a gram-negative cocci which usually occurs in pairs. The bacteria thrive and multiply in warm, moist environments, making the reproductive tract one of the most suitable places for bacterial growth.

In women, the cervix, which is lined by columnar epithelium, is the usual first site of infection. The vagina is spared from infection because of the protective stratified squamous cells that line the vaginal wall. In both men and women, the urethra is affected. Other sites of infection may be the rectum and the oral cavity.

In many individuals, signs and symptoms of gonorrhea do not occur at once because the infection has only managed to reach subclinical levels making transmission rates high for asymptomatic patients. However, in symptomatic patients, signs and symptoms of gonorrhea may take from a couple of days to a month after infection to start appearing.

Pain when urinating, which is usually described as a burning sensation, and a foul-smelling discharge of white, yellow or green color are two of the most common signs and symptoms of gonorrheal infection. Other reported symptoms of infection include off-cycle menstrual bleeding or bleeding after sexual intercourse for women and painful, swollen testicles for men. Rectal infection may be observed as having anal itching and discharge, soreness, bleeding and painful defecation. Throat infection may cause soreness but usually, no symptoms seen in Neisseria gonorrheae infections of the oropharynx. Women have an increased risk of developing more severe and serious complications from the infection irregardless of the presence of signs and symptoms.

Untreated gonorrhea increases risk of both men and women to developing complications. Women who remain untreated may develop pelvic inflammatory disease which can lead to a chronic pain in the pelvic area. The inflammation of the fallopian tubes may cause infertility or increase the risk of having ectopic pregnancy or pregnancy in places outside the uterus. Untreated men may develop epididymitis or inflammation of the testicles which may also cause infertility if left untreated. The infection can also spread to the blood and joints which is a life-threatening condition. If left untreated, gonorrhea can increase the risk of patients in acquiring more severe STDs such as HIV.

The key to preventing gonorrheal infection is abstinence or the practice of safe sex. Condoms must be used at all times, especially if the sexual history of the partner is unknown. Because gonorrhea can be a subclinical disease, chances of transmission from one partner to another is high. In the presence of signs and symptoms however, it is vital to see a doctor immediately especially if more serious symptoms have started to occur because appropriate treatments must be given in order to combat this STD.


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