Gonorrhea Overview

An Overview Of Gonorrhea


Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It has many nicknames such as “the drip” or “the clap”. More than half a million cases are reported in the United States each year 3 , though the actual number of cases is likely much higher, since most women and men with gonorrhea have no symptoms. Gonorrhea is caused by bacteria (neisseria gonorrhoeae) and can infect the genitals, rectum, or throat. Often, people infected with gonorrhea are also infected with chlamydia. Once diagnosed, gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics.

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Gonorrhea In The US Population

In 2014, over 350,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported in the United States, averaging about 110 cases per every 100,000 members of the population. This rate represents an increase of 5% since 2013 and almost 11% since 2010.

How Gonorrhea Spreads

Gonorrhea is most often spread by vaginal, oral and anal sex. It can also be spread from mother to child during birth. A person can be infected with gonorrhea even if they have been previously treated. Condoms greatly reduce the risk of spreading infection, but the only 100% sure way to prevent gonorrhea is to not have sex. Therefore, anyone who is sexually active is at risk of getting gonorrhea.

Am I At Risk For Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a risk factor for all sexually active individuals. Having unprotected sex significantly increases your chances of getting gonorrhea, but the disease can still be passed even if condoms are used. Teenagers and young adults in their 20’s are the most highly affected populations. All sexually active young adults should regularly get tested for both gonorrhea and chlamydia as these infections are often found together. Pregnant mothers with gonorrhea also put their babies at risk of getting the disease.

Gonorrhea And Pregnancy

Women with gonorrhea during a pregnancy suffer higher rates of miscarriage, premature births and infections of the amniotic fluid and surrounding tissue. Gonorrhea untreated puts you at a higher risk for HIV as well as UTIs. The infection can pass from mother to child during childbirth which most commonly affects the newborn’s eyes. Although doctors can treat a gonorrhea eye infection in an infant, an untreated eye infection could lead to partial or complete blindness.

Can Gonorrhea Be Cured?

Yes gonorrhea is a STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) that relatively harmless infection and easily cured if identified and treated with prescribed medications. Your healthcare provider will prescribe you an antibiotic, generally tetracycline, quinolones or penicillin. Some strains of gonorrhea have grown resistant to antibiotics so your doctor may prescribe more aggressive treatment if your infection doesn’t clear up.

How Is Gonorrhea Diagnosed?

Most often a gonorrhea test is performed through urine analysis, although you may be asked for a swab culture from your throat, erethra or rectum. Like Chlamydia, the gonorrhea test is usually done with a NAAT or NAT (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) which tests for the presence of neisseria gonorrhea. If you test positive for the bacteria your doctor will prescribe you a round of antibiotics and you’ll be tested again 2-6 weeks later.

Gonorrhea Prevention

Gonorrhea will always be a risk for individuals engaged in non monogmous sexual activity. Properly using both condoms and dental dams can signficantly reduce the risk of infection but there still remains a risk. Partners should get tested before deciding to have unprotected sex. Individuals engaging in sex with multple partners should always wear a condom.

The History Of Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can be first found in british legislative documents around the early 1600’s. It’s nickname ‘the clap’ has multiple stories of origin ranging from its relation to French brothel’s (les clapiers) to the sensation it gave sufferers during urination. Early gonorrhea treatment consisted of injections of mercury, silver nitrate and even dried peppers.