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 Medical Self-Care: Gonorrhea 
American Institute for Preventive Medicine ©
Gonorrhea is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world. Often called "the clap", "dose", or "drip", it is caused by specific bacterium that is transmitted during vaginal, oral or anal sex. A newborn baby can also get gonorrhea during childbirth if its mother is infected. Gonorrhea can be symptom-free. In fact, about 60 to 80% of infected women have no symptoms.

The signs of gonorrhea can, however, show up within two to ten days after sexual contact with an infected person. In men, symptoms include pain at the tip of the penis, pain and burning during urination and a thick, yellow, cloudy penile discharge that gradually increases. In women, symptoms include mild itching and burning around the vagina, a thick, yellowish-green vaginal discharge, burning on urination and severe lower abdominal pain (usually within a week or so after their menstrual periods).

If ignored, gonorrhea can cause widespread infection and/or infertility. But, gonorrhea can be cured with specific antibiotics. Since many strains of gonorrhea are resistant to penicillin, your doctor will almost always use another medicine.

To treat gonorrhea successfully, you should heed the following:

  • Take prescribed medications.
  • To avoid re-infection, be sure that your sexual partner is also treated.
  • Have follow-up cultures to determine if the treatment was effective.

Self-Care Tips

Questions to Ask
For men only: Do you have any of these problems?
  • A discharge of pus from the penis
  • Discomfort or pain when urinating
  • Irritation and itching of the penis
  • Pain during intercourse
Yes: See Doctor
For women only: Do you have any of these problems?
  • Itching and burning around the vagina
  • A vaginal discharge (this could be slight, cloudy or greenish-yellow in color )
  • Burning or pain when urinating
  • The need to urinate often
  • Discomfort in the lower abdomen
  • Abnormal bleeding from the vagina
Yes: See Doctor
Are you symptom-free, but suspicious of having contracted gonorrhea or another sexually transmitted disease from someone you suspect may be infected? Yes: Call Doctor
Do you want to rule out the presence of a sexually transmitted disease because you have had multiple sex partners and you are considering a new sexual relationship, planning to get married or pregnant? Yes: Call Doctor
Self-Care Prevention Tips
  • There's only one way to guarantee you'll never get a sexually transmitted disease: Never have sex.
  • Limiting your sexual activity to one person your entire life is a close second, provided your partner is also monogamous and does not have a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Avoid sexual contact with persons whose health status and practices are not known.
  • Don't have sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (except in a monogamous relationship in which neither partner is infected with an STD).
  • Avoid sex if either partner has signs and symptoms of a genital tract infection.
  • Discuss a new partner's sexual history with him or her before beginning a sexual relationship. (Be aware, though, that persons are not always honest about their sexual history.)
  • Latex condoms can reduce the spread of sexual diseases when used properly and carefully and for every sex act. They do not eliminate the risk entirely.
  • Both women and men should carry latex condoms and insist that they be used every time they have sexual relations.
  • Using spermicidal foams, jellies, creams (especially those that contain Nonoxynol-9) and a diaphragm can offer additional protection when used with a condom. Use water-based lubricants such as K-Y Brand Jelly. Don't use oil-based or "petroleum" ones such as Vaseline. They can damage latex condoms.
  • Wash the genitals with soap and water before and after sexual intercourse.
  • Seek treatment for a sexually transmitted disease if you know your sex partner is infected.
  • Ask your doctor to check for STDs every six months if you have multiple sex partners even if you don't have any symptoms.

Healthy Self: The Guide to Self-Care and Wise Consumerism
© American Institute for Preventive Medicine
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