Colloquially called the drip or clap, gonorrhea is a pernicious bacterial infection which affects 88 million new people, globally. Unlike some sexual diseases which have been described by medical authorities only recently such as HIV, gonorrhea has reportedly been around and known since antiquity.
Unfortunately, this hasn’t stemmed the occasional proliferation of this infection in certain populations over time. However, to protect yourself from this infection we’ve put together a comprehensive guide.
How Is Gonorrhea Transmitted?
The bacteria which causes the STD or STI, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, can be passed through unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex. Typically, it infects the urethra, though, through anal sex, Neisseria can cause anorectal gonorrhea. While generally thought only to be spread through intercourse, it is possible to be spread through contact with objects covered in Neisseria-bearing fluids as well.
Keep in mind, in both men and women, an infected person can spread the infection without showing any symptoms.
Gonorrhea Symptoms in Men
The STD is more common in men than it is in women and is usually transmitted through vaginal intercourse, although the infection is even more frequently found in the men who have sex with men. However, in many cases of infection in men, there are no immediate symptoms, if at all.
In cases where symptoms do manifest, a man may experience an intense burning sensation while urinating and see a white, yellow or green discharge from the penis. Additionally, a man’s testicles may become painfully swollen in rare cases. If untreated, gonorrhea can cause additional pain in the epididymis (the ducts connecting to the testicles) and even cause sterility.
In cases of rectal infection, which women can experience too, symptoms include anal itching, soreness and painful bowel movements often coupled with bleeding and discharge.
Gonorrhea Symptoms in Women
In most cases where women show symptoms, both the urinary tract and vagina are infected. The symptoms of this infection include a painful, burning sensation when urinating, vaginal bleeding between menstrual cycles along with increased foul-smelling vaginal discharge.
Remember also, it is possible that women can pass gonorrhea to their children during childbirth and causes severe complications for the infant.
Furthermore, if left untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease which can lead to continuous abdominal and pelvic pain, produce scarring which obstructs the Fallopian tubes, promote ectopic pregnancy and even cause infertility.
Rarely, it can infect the throat but usually doesn’t produce symptoms in most cases. However, in about 10% of pharyngeal gonorrhea cases, an individual may experience a sore throat until the infection passes or is treated.
How to Protect Yourself From Gonorrhea?
Like most other sexually transmitted infections, the best way you can protect yourself is through the correct use of latex condoms. Of course, practicing monogamy with a tested, non-infected individual or limiting the number of sexual partners that you have and vetting their status is also an effective, supplementary method to prevent yourself from being exposed to the pathogen.
Myths and Misunderstandings Surrounding Gonorrhea
Since it has been around so long a great deal of myths have sprouted up around gonorrhea. So to clear up some confusion we’re going to address some of the more common misconceptions about this infection.
Can You Get Gonorrhea from Sitting on a Toilet?
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection which thrives best in warm, moist environments. Outside of a host body, the bacteria dies very quickly, usually in a matter of hours if not minutes. Further, the bacteria needs to spread through a liquid medium. So, like virtually every other STI, no you cannot get gonorrhea from sharing using a toilet seat with an infected person.
Why Is Gonorrhea Called the Clap?
Being one of the oldest known STDs both by effect and cause, gonorrhea has picked up numerous nicknames over the decades. The term drip seems to be pretty self-explanatory, given the most obvious symptoms, particularly in men. However, the term clap is shrouded in a bit of mystery.
The most likely derivation of the term clap comes either from the Middle French word ‘clapier’ or the Old English word ‘clappan.’ The latter originally meant to beat or to rub, possibly referring to how gonorrhea sufferers attempted to cope with their symptoms. However, this word arose after the French word clapier.
The former term refers to rabbits nests, and, more specifically, the enormous amount of sex which rabbits have. The word, in turn, later became synonymous with brothels which, prior to modern prophylactics, were places where STDs were commonly contracted and spread.
While less likely, the term clap may also refer to early attempts to treat the infection. Apparently, some people would smash or clap down on the penis between a table and a heavy object to dislodge the pus stuck in a man’s urethra. To clarify, this is not going to cure the disease or treat the symptoms.
Is Gonorrhea Lethal?
Technically yes. Unlike many other STIs, gonorrhea can be fatal if it isn’t treated. Fortunately, contracting gonorrhea can easily be prevented through the use of prophylactics and practicing responsible sex. Further, testing for gonorrhea is straightforward and comes with a standard STI screening. In the event that you do find that you have become infected with the bacteria, there are quick and inexpensive treatments options to explore.
How Is Gonorrhea Treated
Fortunately, gonorrhea is an STI which is the easiest to detect, treat, and cure in typical cases. As previously stated, it is usually tested for during an STI screening and can also be administered by a healthcare physician upon request.
If you test positive, contact your current or past sexual partners so they can get tested and schedule an appointment with a qualified healthcare provider. The doctor will prescribe a round of antibiotics to treat the symptoms and clear up the infection.
Remember though, since this is a bacterial infection and it can be cured, it is possible to get re-infected.