While often referred to as a “disease,” gonorrhea is actually more of an infection. It can be spread through any kind of sexual contact with a person, be it vaginal, anal, or oral. The good news is that, though gonorrhea is highly contagious, it can be treated relatively easily providing it is found and treated early enough.The only way to know for sure if one has gonorrhea and to receive treatment for it is to undergo gonorrhea testing.
People are often afraid to undergo gonorrhea testing and any STD testing for that matter. They often feel that, if they have a STD, they will be labeled as “dirty” or “damaged.” In truth, though, gonorrhea is actually quite common. It can be contracted the first time a person has sex or even through non-intercourse sexual activity. In fact, it is estimated that, in the US, around 700,000 people become infected with gonorrhea every year.
Because gonorrhea is so very common, many tests have been developed to detect its presence. A healthcare provider can easily determine, by asking a few simple questions, what the best test is for a particular person. In most cases, however, a sample of body fluid or urine is taken and tested for the bacteria that causes gonorrhea. If that bacteria is present, then a course of treatment is prescribed to get rid of the infection.
Prevalence Among Young People
While gonorrhea can and does affect people of all ages, it is, for whatever reason, most common in sexually active young people between the ages of 15 and 30. Young people, especially, need to get tested for this STD, though testing is recommended for all people who engage in unprotected sexual activity.
It is important to note that not all or even most people who contract gonorrhea will have symptoms. Furthermore, among those who do have symptoms, they are often mild and can be confused for other minor problems. Therefore, if a person has engaged in unprotected sexual activity, he or she should not rely on the presence or absence of symptoms as an indicator of whether or not gonorrhea has been contracted. With that said, when symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Pain or burning during urination
- Penile discharge
- Swollen testicles
- Vaginal discharge
- Breakthrough bleeding in women
- Itching at the infection site
- Bleeding at the infection site
- Pain when having a bowel movement (in cases of anal contraction)
Many of these symptoms may also indicate the presence of another STD, so general STD testing is recommended if any of these symptoms are present, and a person still tests negative for gonorrhea.
One of the reasons that gonorrhea testing is so very important is because, if left untreated, the infection can cause serious health problems and complications for both men and women. Both genders are susceptible to infertility if they allow their gonorrhea to go on untreated, and pregnant women with gonorrhea can pass the infection onto their babies. Because the consequences of untreated gonorrhea are so severe, it is wise to undergo gonorrhea testing as soon as possible after unprotected sex has occurred.