What is Gonorrhoea?
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that commonly spreads through sexual contact with an infected individual, whether by unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. While the infection primarily affects the genital tract, it can also affect the rectum, throat, joints, and eyes.
What Causes Gonorrhoea?
Gonorrhoea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The bacteria enter the body through fluid discharges from the penis or vagina during unprotected sex, including semen, vaginal fluid, and pre-ejaculation. These bacteria also thrive and multiply in warm and moist areas of the body, such as the genital tract, eyes, mouth, throat, anus, and urethra.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Gonorrhoea?
The signs and symptoms of gonorrhoea can differ between men and women. In some cases, individuals who have contracted this infection may not exhibit any symptoms at all. However, if symptoms do occur, they typically manifest within 1 to 2 weeks after exposure.
Common symptoms for men include:
- Burning Sensation During Urination: An early sign of gonorrhoea in males is a burning sensation or pain during urination. This discomfort can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by increased urination frequency.
- Inflammation of the Penile Area: Men with gonorrhoea may notice swelling, tenderness, and a warm sensation in the penile area. The penile skin may also appear red and irritated. In some cases, this inflammation may lead to difficulty retracting the foreskin, known as phimosis.
- Swollen Testicles: Gonorrhoea can also cause inflammation and infection in the testicles, leading to a condition known as epididymitis. The epididymis is a coiled tube located behind the testicles that stores and transports sperm. This can result in pain, swelling, and tenderness in one or both testicles.
- Discharge from the Penis: A common symptom of gonorrhoea in men is abnormal discharge from the penis. This pus-like discharge is usually thick and appears in white, yellow, or green colour, indicating an infection in the genital tract. It may also have a foul smell and may be more noticeable after sleeping or in the morning.
On the other hand, common symptoms for women include:
- Abdominal Pain or Pain During Intercourse: Women with gonorrhoea may experience discomfort or severe cramping in the lower abdomen. The condition can also lead to pain during intercourse (dyspareunia) due to inflammation and irritation in the genital area.
- Vaginal Discharge and Bleeding: Gonorrhoea can cause abnormal vaginal discharge, which may appear yellowish or greenish and have a foul odour. Some women may also experience spotting or bleeding between heavy menstrual periods or after sex.
How is Gonorrhoea Tested?
Testing for gonorrhoea usually involves collecting a sample of bodily fluid from the infected area for laboratory analysis. The most common methods of testing include:
- Urine Test: This involves providing a urine sample for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing to detect the presence of the gonorrhoea bacteria. Patients are advised to refrain from urinating for at least two hours prior to the test, as recent urination may wash away the bacteria and affect the accuracy of the results.
- Swab Test: In this method, a doctor utilises a swab to collect samples from the urethra in men, the cervix in women, or from the throat, rectum, or genital area. Then, the collected swab is sent to a laboratory for testing and analysis.
If you suspect to have been exposed to gonorrhoea or are experiencing any symptoms, it is crucial to promptly seek medical attention for testing and diagnosis.
How is Gonorrhoea Treated?
Treatment for gonorrhoea primarily involves the use of antibiotics to eliminate the infection. To ensure complete clearance of the infection, the doctor may schedule follow-up visits two weeks after treatment for additional tests. Patients must also refrain from any sexual contact until the treatment is completed.
How Can Gonorrhoea be Prevented?
- Undergo regular testing for gonorrhoea and other STIs, especially if you have multiple sexual partners or engage in high-risk sexual behaviours.
- Practise safe sex by using condoms or other barrier contraception during sexual intercourse
- Refrain from sharing sex toys and ensure to clean and disinfect them between each use
- Avoid sexual intercourse until both you and your partner have completed gonorrhoea treatment
- Minimise having casual sex and multiple sexual partners
Dr Tan Medical Center is a men’s health and sexual health clinic in Singapore specialising in screenings for gonorrhoea and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Patient safety and welfare is very important to us, so you can be assured of receiving private, compassionate and effective medical care.