Gonorrhea: Diagnosis, Testing, and Treatment
Gonorrhea, also known as "The Clap," is a sexually transmitted disease that affects about 800,000 people a year in the United States. It can be contracted by both men and women, however men are four times more likely to exhibit symptoms of the disease. It is important to get tested if you think that you may have gonorrhea or if you are exhibiting any symptoms of gonorrhea, as prolonged infection can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women, and epididymitis in men. Gonorrhea is easily treatable with antibiotics.
Diagnosis and Testing
If you think that may have gonorrhea, or have gonorrhea symptoms, visit with your doctor. Simple tests are available to confirm an infection. The sooner you begin gonorrhea treatments, the better. While gonorrhea treatment is 95% to 99% effective, it cannot reverse any damage already done to your reproductive organs.
Your doctor will begin the exam by taking your medical history and asking you for information about your symptoms. It is important to be as clear as possible about any symptoms you may be having, so your doctor can estimate how long you have been infected. Your doctor will then conduct a physical exam during which time he will look for any signs of infection, including fever, inflammation of the vagina or penis, and discharge from the vagina or penis.
If you are a woman, your doctor will also check you for any tenderness in the lower abdomen that could indicate an infection. Your doctor will also take a sample of any discharge that is apparent. In women, samples may be taken from the cervix, anus, or throat. In men, a sample of discharge may be taken from the penis, anus, or throat. This sample will be sent off for culture testing of the bacteria that cause gonorrhea.
The sample of discharge taken from you will be placed in plastic dish and allowed to grow (or culture) for two days. If any bacteria are present, they will multiply and be easily identifiable under a microscope. Some doctors may also have access to a urine test for gonorrhea. A urine sample will be collected and can indicate an infection. This test is not as reliable as the culture test, but will help to rule out the infection.
If you test positive for gonorrhea, don't worry; the disease is easily treatable. You will likely be offered an antibiotic, either in pill form or by injection. A single dose is usually all that is required, but some antibiotics require longer courses. Common antibiotics for gonorrhea include: Ofloxacin, Cefixine, and Ceftriaxine.
If you are pregnant and have gonorrhea, or if you are under the age of 18, it is important to tell your doctor. Certain antibiotics shouldn't be used by pregnant women or by people under 18.
It is important to take all of the medication that is prescribed to you, even if you aren't experiencing any symptoms. You must also abstain from sex until you have tested negative for the disease. If you have tested positive for gonorrhea, any and all sexual partners you have had should also be tested in order to prevent spreading the infection as well as to avoid future complications.
If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause many problems in both women and men. Untreated gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in women. PID has been shown to cause scarring on the reproductive organs, which can cause infertility, as well as increase a woman's risk of ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life threatening problem. Gonorrhea can also cause infertility in men if it the STD is not treated.
It is also possible for gonorrhea to spread to other parts of the body. It has been known to infect the heart valves and the brain as well as cause joint inflammation.
After you have finished your medications, wait three days before returning to your doctor to get tested. You should also get tested for HIV and Chlamydia, because many of those infected with gonorrhea are also susceptible to these diseases. If for any reason your symptoms do not clear up, return to your doctor for further advice.