Health & Medicine

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea, infectious sexually transmitted infection of humans, which primarily involves the mucous membranes of the urogenital tract. Characterized by a discharge of pus, it is caused by the gonococcus bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The incubation period is two to seven days.

SYMPTOMS AND DIAGNOSIS

Gonorrhea is much more obvious in males, who develop an acute discharge of pus from the urethra. Scant at the start, it becomes progressively thicker and heavier and causes frequent urination, often with a burning sensation. Should the prostate become infected, the passage of urine is partly obstructed. In females the infection occurs in the urethra, the vagina, or the cervix. Although discharge and irritation of the vaginal mucous membranes may be severe, more often few or no early symptoms appear.

Gonorrhea can be diagnosed by examining discharge from the penis or vagina for the presence of bacteria. A urine test can also detect the presence of bacteria and it is a noninvasive way to check people who are not exhibiting symptoms. Treatment in the early stages is usually effective. If the disease is untreated in the male, the early symptoms may subside but the infection may spread to the testicles, causing sterility. In the untreated female the infection usually spreads from the cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (see Gynecology). Severe pain may occur, or the infection may linger with few or no symptoms, gradually damaging the tubes and rendering the woman sterile. In both sexes the gonococcus may enter the bloodstream, resulting in arthritis, heart inflammation, or other diseases. Gonorrhea in pregnant women may be transmitted to the infant during birth and may, if untreated, cause a serious eye infection.

TREATMENT

Antibiotics are commonly used against gonorrhea, although over the years an increasing number of antibiotic-resistant strains of the gonorrhea bacteria have developed, causing a rise in the incidence of the disease in the 1990s. Still effective are antibiotics that are administered in a single dose, including ceftriaxone, cefixime, ciprofloxacin, and ofloxacin.