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Getting to know the facts about gonorrhea is extremely important for anyone who is sexually active. Understanding the facts will allow the person to taken preventive measures, or ensure that early medical intervention is sought in case of an infection.
Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium known as Neisseria gonorrheae. This bacterium thrives in places that are warm and moist, and hence favors the cervix, fallopian tubes, uterus and urinary tract of women, and just the urinary tract in men. (See Reference 1) In addition, the bacterium has the ability to multiply in the rectum, eyes as well as the throat. (See Reference 1)
The CDC reports that more than 700,000 new cases of the infected are reported every year from the US alone; and the rate is highest among adolescents, African American and young adults who are sexually active. The infection can be contracted from any kind of sexual contact; and it can also be transferred from a pregnant mother to the baby at the time of normal delivery. (See Reference 1)
The incubation period of the bacterium can last for up to 30 days, but generally the symptoms appear within 2 to 5 days in men. The symptoms would include burning sensation while urinating, and white to green discharge from penis. In case of women, the symptoms are mild and majority of the women do not even realize that they have the infection. (See Reference 1) It is often mistaken for bladder, vaginal or urinary infection. The symptoms are similar to men, with burning sensation when urinating and discharge from the vagina.
When gonorrhea bacterium infects the rectum, it causes discharge from the anus, pain during bowel movements, itching and/or soreness. While an infection of the throat results in a sore throat.
A doctor can diagnose the infection after getting results of the laboratory tests, which include taking a swab from the infected site and analyzing the same. In addition, a urine test can confirm whether the bacterium is proliferating in the urethra or the cervix. A doctor can also conduct a gram stain test in the office and this can give quick results. However, this test gives more accurate results in case of men compared to women. (See Reference 1) Once the test is positive, the person is put on antibiotics to kill the bacterium. The antibiotics have to be taken as advised by the doctor and the entire course should be finished in order to ensure that the bacterium is destroyed in the body. However, the medications cannot reverse any permanent damage done by the bacterium. (See Reference 1)
Safe sexual practices can help prevent gonorrhea, but these methods are not 100 percent effective. Refraining from sexual intercourse is the only method to guarantee that infection is not contracted. Also, ensuring that both partners get checked regularly for gonorrhea and seeking treatment if results come in positive can help early detection of the infection.
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