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Gonorrhea: An Overview

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Updated May 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Gonorrhea Intro

The Clap. A Dose. GC. A Drip. All these phrases refer to the same thing – the sexually transmitted disease most accurately known as gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea is an extremely common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, infecting around 700,000 new people a year. It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and it can be spread by oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It can also be passed from a mother to her child during a vaginal delivery.

Although gonorrhea is frequently asymptomatic, that doesn't mean it can't have serious health consequences. Left untreated, gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women and epididymitis in men, both which can lead to eventual infertility. Gonorrhea can also cause a disseminated infection, which happens when the bacteria get into the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. Symptoms of disseminated infection include fever, chills, skin blistering, and joint pain, which are different than the symptoms of a genital infection.

Gonorrhea is on the brink of becoming a public health disaster. Over time, the bacteria that cause the disease have become resistant to all but one class of antibiotics. Fluoroquinolones, which had been a standard gonorrhea treatment for many years, became essentially obsolete in the early months of 2007 as resistant strains were found more and more often in the general public. Furthermore, in early 2012, scientists started reporting that gonorrhea was now becoming resistant to cephalosporins -- the last line of defense against infection.

To find out more about gonorrhea, including detailed information on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, click on one of the links below:

Sources:

{1}The CDC Fact Sheet on Gonorrhea. http://www.cdc.gov/std/Gonorrhea/STDFact-gonorrhea.htm. Accessed 5/04/2007.

{2}The Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia: Gonococcemia (Disseminated). http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000645.htm Accessed 5/01/2007.

{3}Updated recommended treatment regimens for gonococcal infections and associated conditions - United States, April 2007. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2006/updated-regimens.htm. Accessed 5/01/2007.

{4}Kirkcaldy, R.D. et al. (2013). Cephalosporin-Resistant Gonorrhea in North America. Journal of the American Medical Association. 309(2):185-187. Accessed 1/14/2013

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