Gonorrhea is one of many harmful sexually transmitted diseases (STD). It infects both males and females and is especially common among sexually active adolescents and teenagers aged 24 and under. However, gonorrhea can be transmitted between people of any age, and, while it most commonly affects the genitals, it may also affect the rectum or the throat in cases of anal or oral transmission.
A Widespread Disease
Despite all that is known about gonorrhea and how to prevent it (by having safe sex every time!), it is still one of the most common STDs. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control report that there are approximately 700,000 new cases of the disease each year. That means that, if you engage in unprotected sexual activity, you have a very good chance of contracting the disease. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time having sex or if you think your partner is “clean;” many people who are infected with gonorrhea are unaware that they have it.
Fortunately, there are many gonorrhea symptoms that could potentially alert a person to the disease’s presence. Unfortunately, however, these symptoms are often ignored or written off as being due to another problem or condition. Most people will develop symptoms in as little as two to five days after infection, and almost all people will have had some symptoms by a month after infection. However, there are some people who do not have or notice the symptoms of the disease until it begins to spread. Once gonorrhea has spread, it can do serious damage in the body and becomes harder to treat. As such, it’s very important to be aware of the following gonorrhea symptoms and to get tested if you experience them or if you have engaged in unprotected sexual activity:
- Pain when urinating
- Urinating more frequently
- Itching of the anus, vagina or penis
- Odd discharge or bleeding from the genitals
- Irregular menstrual cycles (in women)
- Stomach pain
- Running a fever
- Swollen glands
- Pain during intercourse (in women)
- Throat pain
- Pink eye
- Unexplained rash
- Joint pain
- Inflammation of the tendons
The final four symptoms are the most serious because they typically indicate that gonorrhea has spread and is infecting other parts of the body.
The first step in taking control of the situation is to get tested! There is no other way, other than through testing performed by a medical professional, to know if you have gonorrhea. If you do, know that there is treatment available. Also, understand that if you are infected and continue to engage in unprotected sexual activity, you will likely pass the disease onto your partner or partners.
Many people are nervous about getting tested, but the procedure is typically quick and painless. A health care professional can check for gonorrhea by testing a urine sample or by taking swabs of the potentially affected areas. Results typically come back within a day or two, and no matter what they are, it’s better to know where you stand than to be in the dark and potentially put yourself and others at risk.