GONORRHEA AND INFERTILITY (Part 1)

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Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) or Sexually Transmitted Infectious (STIs) is generally acquired through sexual contact. The organisms (bacteria, virus or parasites) that cause sexually transmitted diseases can be passed from one person to another via vaginal, anal or oral sex. Some STIs can also be spread through non-sexual means such as blood transfusions, shared needles or from mother to infant during pregnancy or childbirth.

Over thirty different viruses, parasites, and bacteria are thought to be transferred by sexual contact, some of which are associated to sexually transmitted diseases. Some are curable, while others are incurable but can be modified or reduced with treatment.

There are different types of sexually transmitted diseases, last year we started with Chlamydia and its effects on fertility, this week, we would focus on Gonorrhea and its effects on infertility.

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is one of the most contagious sexually transmitted infections that affect both males and females. Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhea and if not treated on time may damage the urinary tract, lead to heart disease, arthritis (pain or swelling of one or more joints), meningitis (swelling of the tissue covering the brain leading to stiff neck, headache and fever) and even infertility. The bacteria Neisseria gonorrhea was previously known as “the clap”. Neisseria gonorrhea is mostly present in vaginal fluid and discharge from the penis.

The surface of gonorrhea bacteria have proteins that can easily attach to cells in the cervix or urethra. When these bacteria attach to cells in a region, they invade and spread to other regions of the body, making it difficult for the body to fight the bacteria and therefore, destroying the cells and tissue of the body. Gonorrhea spreads easily in moist areas of the reproductive tract, in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus. Gonorrhea is most commonly transferred during vaginal, oral or anal sex without a condom.

Gonorrhea may lead to infertility in women by spreading into the cervix and damaging the fallopian tubes. In males, it damages the epididymis, thereby leading to infertility. Babies can also be infected with gonorrhea by infected mothers during childbirth and this bacterium mostly lead to blindness and sores on the scalp of the infant.
Who is at risk?
• Sexually active individuals.
• Having multiple sex partners.
• Had partners with sexually transmitted infection.
• Practicing unprotected sex.
• Sharing sex toys.
• Vaginal or anal sex with an infected person.
• Infected mothers to their babies during childbirth.
• Young teenagers within the ages of 15 – 25 who are sexually active.
• Men who have sex with men , are at increased risk of getting gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea is spread easily between people through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex, as well as exchanging vibrators or other sex devices that haven’t been washed or covered with a new condom after each use. The bacteria can damage the cervix (entrance to the womb), urethra (tube that passes urine out of the body), the rectum, the throat or eyes.
The infection can also be transferred from a mother to her unborn child. It is important to get tested and treated for gonorrhea if you are pregnant and suspect you have it. In a newborn baby, gonorrhea can cause permanent blindness if not treated.

Sharing bath, toilet seats, towels, cutleries, cups, plates, swimming pools, holding hands or hugging do not spread gonorrhea because the bacteria cannot survive outside of the human body for long periods of time.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF GONORRHEA

Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea usually appear within 2 to 14 days after exposure to the bacteria. However, not every carrier of gonorrhea will have a noticeable symptoms, this type of carriers are called asymptomatic carriers. An infected person with no signs or symptoms is more likely to leave the disease untreated thereby leading to long term damages.
Signs and Symptoms in men
Signs and symptoms of gonorrhea in men include the following:
• Burning sensation when urinating.
• Frequent urination.
• White, yellow or green discharge from the tip of the penis.
• Swollen testicles.
• Irritation at the anus.
• Continuous sore throat.
However, some men with gonorrhea may show no symptoms at all.

Signs and Symptoms in women

Most women with gonorrhea are asymptomatic. Even when a woman has symptoms, they are not easily noticeable and may be mistaken for minor vaginal infection. Women with gonorrhea are at high risk of developing long term complications such as infertility from the infection even when they show no symptoms of gonorrhea. Some of these noticeable symptoms of gonorrhea include:
• Increased vaginal discharge.
• Bleeding after intercourse.
• Painful urination.
• Abdominal or pelvic pain.
• Pain during sexual intercourse.
• Heavy bleeding.

Symptoms at other sites in the body

Gonorrhea can also affect some parts of the body such as:
• The Eyes – Sensitivity to light, pus-like discharge from one or both eyes and pains in the eyes.
• Throat – Sore throat and swollen neck.
• Joints – Swollen joints, stiffness and painful movement.
• Rectum – Anal itching, painful bowel movement, pus-like discharge, soreness and bleeding.

Endeavour to make an effort to get tested for gonorrhea and other STDs at least once a year. The sooner gonorrhea is detected and treated; the less likely it is for the infection to cause severe complications that may lead to infertility..………………..TO BE CONTINUED