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Gonorrhea treatable in one shot dose

By Maggie Samways
On April 5, 2001

It is possible that if you or your partner were infected with the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea you might know it by the trademark symptom: a painful, burning sensation during urination.

Gonorrhea is a curable bacterial infection caused by direct person to person contact. It is estimated that 800, 000 cases of gonorrhea occur annually in the U.S., and the Center for Disease Control puts gonorrhea "second only to chlamydial infections in the number of cases reported."

The most common sites for gonorrhea infection are the urethra in males and the genital tract in women.

"Gonorrhea is highly contagious, fairly common, and easily treated," said Erica Plambeck, Physician's Assistant, the clinician at Planned Parenthood of Willimantic.

Symptoms of a gonorrhea infection usually appear within two days to a week. Although it is possible to have gonorrhea and not display symptoms, the most common symptoms in women include: a painful or burning sensation when urinating, bleeding associated with vaginal intercourse, bleeding between periods, excessive bleeding during periods, painful intercourse, lower abdominal pain and/or vaginal discharge that is yellow or bloody. Symptoms of gonorrhea in men include: a burning sensation during urination that may be severe, pus from the penis and testicular pain. Gonorrhea can also infect the eyes, mouth, throat and rectum. Signs of a rectal infection are itching, creamy discharge, rectal bleeding, pain and constipation.

To diagnose gonorrhea, doctors swab the genitals and test those cells for signs of infection.

"It's a routine screening, combined gonorrhea and chlamydia," said Plambeck. "We want to screen for it because it can be asymptomatic, especially in women."

Plambeck recommends annual screenings for STDs, and more often when there is a partner change.

"Treatment is inexpensive, and it's a one shot deal," Plambeck said.

Treatment of gonorrhea is usually a single dose of antibiotics. If untreated, gonorrhea bacteria can spread up into the reproductive tract, or in rare cases, can spread to the blood stream and infect joints, heart valves, and the brain. Long-term complications in men may include epididymitis, a inflammation of the testicles that can cause sterility. Long-term complications in women include: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which can lead to sterility; abscesses; ectopic pregnancy; liver infection; sterility; and transmission to newborns.

Questions and concerns regarding gonorrhea or other STDs can be answered by the National STD Hotline at (800) 227-8922 or Planned Parenthood at (860) 423-8426.

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