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Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)

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Gonorrhea

 


Gonorrhea is the second-most common STD in the county. It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. In the U.S., almost 500,000 cases are reported each year. A large percentage of men and women infected with gonorrhea experience no symptoms, especially when the infection affects the throat or rectum.


Symptoms


In most women, the only symptoms are a slight increase in vaginal discharge and some inflammation. The symptoms often are so mild that women are unaware they are infected and are only made aware of the disease because a sexual partner is infected. Symptoms may not appear for 1 to 3 weeks. The infection usually affects the cervix and reproductive organs but can involve the urethra.

If symptoms appear in men, they generally show up on a average 3-5 days after exposure to the bacteria but might take as long as 30 days. With or without symptoms you are communicable within hours after exposure. Men usually experience pain during urination followed by a milky discharge from the urethra. This discharge can become more pronounced.

Oral sex can produce pharyngeal gonorrhea and accompanying sore throat, pain on swallowing and redness of the throat and tonsil. The infection also can spread to the eye and cause conjunctivitis or pinkeye. Rectal gonorrhea can result from anal sex and can cause discomfort in the anal area and rectal discharge. Again, infected persons may experience no symptoms.

Newborns who develop Gonorrhea at birth do so by exposure to infected cervical fluid of the mother. Gonorrhea symptoms usually manifest in 2-5 days after birth. Prenatal screening of pregnant women helps prevent this infection. Sexual abuse should be considered when cases are found in preadolescent children.


Diagnosis & Treatment


To confirm a diagnosis, a doctor takes specimens of the discharge or infected area. Blood tests for syphilis should be performed on all persons who have gonorrhea. Antibiotic therapy is used once the presence of the infection has been confirmed. Gonorrhea can be cured. Law in Arizona requires antibiotic ointment, to be placed in the eyes of all newborn infants in an effort to prevent gonococcal eye disease.

During treatment, infected individuals should abstain from sexual contact because gonorrhea is contagious.


Potential Complications


In men, gonorrheal infection can lead to inflammation of the epididymis, part of the male reproductive system. In woman, it can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease, which could result in scarring of the tubes and infertility. The infection also can spread through the bloodstream to cause infection in other parts of the body. Recently, drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea have appeared, making it vital that all sexual partners be examined, appropriate specimens be cultured and all infections be treated.

For more information on Gonorrhea, contact Maricopa County Public Health Division of STD's at (602) 506-1678 or visit the Centers for Disease Control website.

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