Gonorrhea also known as “the clap,” is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. While gonorrhoea can cause signs and symptoms, including vaginal or penile discharge and pain when urinating or during sex, it often comes with no such hints at all.
Over the years, these bacteria have become very resistant to most antibiotics. While a single dose of azithromycin and ceftriaxone can clear most infections, reinfection is common. If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause severe complications including miscarriage, infertility, septic arthritis, and even blindness.
Gonorrhea affects both men and women and can be transmitted to newborns at birth. More than 800,000 cases are reported in the United States each year—and the rate is rising.
Firstly, the good news. Gonorrhea is easily cured in the vast majority of cases. The bad news is; the price to get cured is having to admit to the doctor that you were – most likely – reckless and irresponsible during your last sexual encounter.
That, or you’re just a huge nymphomaniac who always practices safe sex and the numbers caught up to you. Firstly, let’s try to understand what happens when you go to the doctor with gonorrhoea symptoms (pain, burning when urinating, discharge, etc.).
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 90 percent of women and 40 percent of men infected with gonorrhea will experience no symptoms. If symptoms do appear, they will often be mild and non-specific and easily mistaken for other illnesses, including a urinary tract infection, strep throat, yeast infection, or hemorrhoids.
Common symptoms in women include:
- Vaginal discharge
- Pain when urinating
- Bleeding between periods
- Lower abdomen or pelvic pain
Common symptoms in men include:
- A greenish-yellow discharge from the penis
- Pain when urinating
- Pain or swelling in the scrotum or testicles
Pharyngeal (throat) gonorrhea can cause a mild sore throat, while rectal gonorrhea most commonly manifests with symptoms of itchiness, discomfort, and pain during a bowel movement. An infection of the eye is also possible, resulting in symptoms of conjunctivitis (pink eye).
If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women and epididymitis in men, both of which can lead to infertility. Less commonly, disseminated disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI), meningitis, and other serious issues can occur.
Gonorrhea can also increase your risk of getting HIV as the inflamed mucosal tissues provide the virus easier access into the body.
Newborn babies exposed to and infected with the bacterium during childbirth can sometimes develop an eye infection known as opthalmia neonatorum, which, if left untreated, can lead to blindness and other complications.
We spoke with several doctors about their approach to treating patients who possibly have gonorrhea, both in the United States and out. We also reviewed more than a dozen anecdotal cases, and while every doctor’s approach may differ, here’s generally what you can expect.
(Note: This one is written from the perspective of “the lads.” Ladies, you are much smarter than this. Just go see your OBGYN.)
- After some risky sexual experience that you regret almost immediately, you realize that there is something strange going on “down there.” Could burn when you urinate, could be a discharge, could be both.
- When you arrive in the examination room, the doctor will inquire about your risky sexual behavior, something which you will then begin to significantly underplay
- Usually, the Doctor will then do one of two things:
- Do a painful swab of your urethra so they can do a test for STDs and then prescribe antibiotics
- Prescribe antibiotics and tell you to come back later if the problem doesn’t clear up
- Since chlamydia and gonorrhea have overlapping symptoms, there’s no way to tell which condition you have without getting a test
- Given what we just said, it’s 3X more likely you have chlamydia, not gonorrhea, since both manifest similar symptoms.
(At first we thought, what sort of moron searches for the term “how to cure gonorrhea without going to the doctor” without even knowing they have gonorrhea for sure? Not even a doctor can tell if someone has gonorrhea without doing a test first. Turns out, it doesn’t matter so much. Read on.)
- In the majority of cases, the antibiotic you will be given is azithromycin which is sold under the brand name “Zithromax.” That’s because it’s a first-line treatment for both chlamydia and gonorrhea.
There are three tests commonly used to diagnose gonorrhea, each of which has its appropriate use and limitations:
- Nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) is genetic test recommended in the first-line diagnosis of uncomplicated gonorrhea of the cervix/vagina or penis. While the NAAT is extremely fast and accurate, it is not approved for the diagnosis of rectal or pharyngeal gonorrhea.
- Bacterial cultures can be used to diagnose gonorrhea of the genitals, rectum, throat, and eyes. While useful, a culture is a specialized, non-automated test that can be marred by lab error and improper sample collection.
- Gram staining is a traditional form of diagnosis in which dyes are used to differentiate bacteria under the microscope. While the procedure can render a definitive result in men, it is less able to do so in women.
Now you can see why what you think you contracted doesn’t matter so much. At least not when the doctor decides to blast the crap out of it with 1,000 milligrams of Zithromax. You could have contracted chlamydia, gonorrhea, or a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), and Zithromax will generally clear up any or all of those.
That’s why it’s such a popular treatment, and a 1,000 milligram dose of Zithromax is the CDC-recommended first-line treatment for both Chlamydia and gonorrhea (note that for gonorrhea, the CDC also recommends a shot of cephalosporin or oral cefixime).
Since you have no idea what STD you actually have without going to a doctor and getting tested, you can just spray and pray with Zithromax, except you don’t have to pray very hard because 1,000 milligrams of Zithromax usually clears things up. At least it used to until recently.