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Oral Gonorrhea / Throat Gonorrhea – What do you need to know

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by a bacterium known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It thrives in warm and moist areas like the genital tracts, mouth and anus.

Gonorrhoea is a common STD in Singapore. MOH reports an incidence rate of 33.4 per 100,000 population in 2016.

What are the symptoms of Gonorrhea infection?

In men, up to 60% of patients with urogenital Gonorrhea might not have any symptoms (asymptomatic). Symptoms of urogenital Gonorrhea in male may include:

  • Discomfort, itchy along the urinary tract
  • Painful urination
  • Penile discharge
  • Testicular Pain (Epididymitis)

In women, up to 70% of patients with urogenital Gonorrhea might not have any symptoms (asymptomatic).

Symptoms of urogenital gonorrhea in female may include:

  • Vaginal itch, discharge or bleeding
  • Painful urination
  • Abdominal/Pelvic Pain
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

What are the complications of Gonorrhea infection?

Untreated Gonorrhea infections for females can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease with abdominal pain and abnormal vaginal bleeding. It can cause infertility if the sexual organs are scarred by the infection. Gonorrhea can also lead to multiple complications during pregnancy for the infected mother and can even be passed on to her baby.

For men, untreated Gonorrhea infection can result in scarring of the urinary tract and urinary obstruction. Testicular/Epididymal infection can also cause infertility if left untreated.

What is Oral/Throat Gonorrhea and how is it transmitted?

Oral/Throat Gonorrhea is the infection of the pharynx by the same bacterium and it is commonly transmitted through oral sex. It is an oral STD.

How common is Oral/Throat Gonorrhea and what are the symptoms?

A recent study in 2016 has estimated the prevalence of throat Gonorrhea infection to be as high as 30% for straight woman, 15.5% for straight men and 17% for homosexual men.

The most common presentation of throat Gonorrhea is a sore throat. Some patients may have swollen neck lymph nodes. However, the majority of patients do not present with any symptoms at all.

Oral ulcers are not a presentation of throat Gonorrhea. If oral/peri-oral ulcers are present, other STDs such as Herpes and Syphilis need to be considered.

I do not practice oral sex. Why should I be screened for Throat Gonorrhea?

Throat Gonorrhea transmission can occur even in the absence of reported oral sex.

Even though the majority of throat gonorrhea are asymptomatic, in 0.5% to 3% of infected patients the bacterium can penetrate the mucosae and enter the bloodstream, leading to a widespread infection. This blood-borne invasion (Disseminated Gonococcal Infection) can lead to to a variety of dangerous conditions including:

  • Multiple joint inflammation
  • Tendon Sheath inflammation
  • Skin dermatitis
  • Joint Infections

Hence, even in the absence of oral sex or symptoms, patients with new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner with a diagnosed STD should go for STD screening.

How is Gonorrhea screening performed?

Gonorrhea Testing. NAAT (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) is routinely performed to detect N.gonorrhoeae. The doctor will swab the suspected area of infection (throat/anus/vagina) or request a urine sample for diagnosis of gonorrhea infection. It has been shown to be superior to traditional methods of culturing the bacteria with far more rapid results.

How is Gonorrhea treated and how can I prevent Gonorrhea infection?

Gonorrhea is treated with a single antibiotic injection and a course of oral antibiotics.

Gonorrhea transmission can be prevented by observing safe sexual practices. This includes the use of barrier protections like condoms or dental dams, cutting down the number of sexual partners as well as ensuring regular STD screening for both the patient and their sexual partners.

Next read: WHAT IS ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT GONORRHEA OR SUPER GONORRHEA?


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What is Antibiotic Resistant Gonorrhea or Super Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually-transmitted infection caused by the bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. 

Antibiotic-resistant Gonorrhea refers to strains of Gonorrhea that are not killed by antibiotics that were previously effective in killing off these bacteria. 

In the 1980s, penicillins and tetracyclines could kill off Gonorrhea. By the 1990s, these drugs were no longer effective and Fluoroquinolones were recommended as the first line treatment. By the 2000s, Fluoroquinolones resistance was commonplace and only one group of antibiotics remains as an effective treatment for Gonorrhea – Cephalosporins. By now, certain strains of Gonorrhea that are resistant to cephalosporins have already been detected and that is worrisome because if these medications become useless, we might face a situation where we cannot clear gonorrhea from a person’s body. 

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What drugs are super gonorrhea resistant to?

Super Gonorrhea is the colloquial term for strains of Gonorrhea that are extensively drug-resistant, with high-level resistance to the current recommended treatment for gonorrhea (ceftriaxone and azithromycin) including resistance to penicillin, sulphonamides, tetracycline, fluoroquinolones, macrolides.


What causes super gonorrhea? 

Super Gonorrhea is a problem that we have created. 

The unrestricted access, inappropriate selection and overuse of antibiotics over many decades has allowed the strains of gonorrhea to genetically mutate in such a way that they are no longer affected by these antibiotics. Extra genital infections in the rectum and throat may also play an important role in the development of resistant strains as gonorrhea can interact and exchange genetic material with other co-infections in these places.


How common is Super Gonorrhea?

Super Gonorrhea has been reported by several countries including France, Japan, Spain, the UK and Australia. The American CDC has not received any reports of verified clinical treatment failures to any cephalosporin in the United States to date. 


How does Gonorrhea spread?

Gonorrhea can be spread through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus of an infected partner. Ejaculation does not have to occur for gonorrhea to be transmitted or acquired. Even if you have had gonorrhea in the past and was treated, you can still get reinfected again if you are exposed to it again. 


What are the symptoms of super gonorrhea?

The symptoms of super gonorrhea are the same as regular gonorrhea. Gonorrhea can infect different areas of the body. Most symptoms present within 1-2 weeks after exposure.

In males, the most commonly infected site is the genitourinary system. It can present with symptoms such as pain on passing urine, penile discharge, swelling at the tip of the penis and scrotal pain and swelling.

In females, the most commonly infected site is also the genitourinary system and and present with symptoms such as vaginal discharge, pain on passing urine, intermenstrual bleeding, painful intercourse, and mild lower abdominal pain

Gonorrhea can also infect other areas of the body such as the rectum, causing rectal pain, itching, discharge, or tenesmus. If gonorrhea infects the throat, you can get a persistent sore throat. Gonorrhea can also infect the eyes, causing conjunctivitis which may present with eye pain, discharge, and redness. If gonorrhea spreads by blood to the rest of the body including the brain, heart, bone, joints, skin and liver, this is termed Disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI). While rare, DGI can be deadly and have long term complications. 


Does Gonorrhea always have symptoms?

Gonorrhea can have little to no symptoms at all in some people. That is the reason why it is so important to screen for STIs with every sexual encounter. 

A study has reported that more than 80% of people (both males and females) with Gonorrhea can have no symptoms. Do not wait for symptoms to appear before you screen for STIs. Do it regularly with every new sexual encounter. 

Also read: Rapid STD Test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea PCR


What are other STDs that do not display symptoms and have serious complications if left untreated?

All STIs can have no symptoms at all. Because people do not experience any symptoms, they think that they do not have an STI and thus the spread of STIs continues. Other STIs we regularly test for include other urinary STIs such as Chlamydia, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Mycoplasma hominis and Trichomonas. What we can test for in the blood are STIs such as HIV, Syphilis, Herpes and Hepatitis B and C.


What happens if gonorrhea is treated effectively?

If gonorrhea is treated effectively (with the proper antibiotics), your symptoms should clear up, and subsequent follow up tests to test for clearance should come back as negative for gonorrhea.


What are the complications of Gonorrhea?

In females, untreated gonorrhea may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is an infection of the fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix. If left untreated, PID may cause permanent damage to the reproductive tract, which may lead to infertility. It may also lead to long-term pelvic pain.

Males with untreated gonorrhea may develop a condition called epididymitis. This condition is characterized by inflammation of the tubes near the testicles that carry semen. It can also lead to infertility. 

DGI is another complication of gonorrhea as well. 


What happens if you have drug resistant gonorrhea? Can I get rid of Antibiotic Resistant Gonorrhea?

If you have drug resistant gonorrhea, your doctor may opt to treat you with antibiotics that hopefully are effective against this strain of gonorrhea. Antibiotic sensitivity testing for that strain should be done. If it is truly multi-drug resistant, a referral to an infectious diseases specialist is appropriate, and they may have to treat you with antibiotics that are reserved for the worst kinds of infections. 


How do you reduce your risk of contracting these STIs?

Abstinence is the only way to reduce your risk to zero.

If you are sexually active, use barrier protection such as condoms, the right way. You can also speak to your partner to get tested for STIs before engaging in sexual activity.  A mutually monogamous relationship also carries a lower risk of STIs than having multiple sexual partners.

If you are sexually active with multiple sexual partners, get yourself tested regularly and treated. The presence of one STI can increase your risk of contracting another one more easily. Most STIs can easily be detected through swabs, urine or blood tests at your doctors. These are rather pain free and minimally invasive, so there should be no fear to get tested!

There are some STIs that are preventable through vaccinations. Vaccines are available against certain strains of HPV that may cause warts, cervical, anal and penile cancer. Effective vaccines against Hepatitis B are available as well.

Also read: What is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)?


How do I find out if I have been infected with Super Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is often diagnosed using a PCR test. This test can give results very fast and determine if a person is infected with Gonorrhea or not. However, this test cannot differentiate between regular Gonorrhea and Super Gonorrhea.

For that, a test called Gonorrhea Culture and Sensitivity has to be conducted. This test takes a longer time as the Gonorrhea bacteria has to be grown on a plate and tested against various antibiotics. This test is also less sensitive as for various reasons, sometimes the Gonorrhea bacteria cannot grow.

Also read: What Is Rapid Chlamydia & Gonorrhea PCR STD Testing?

If you think you may have been exposed to Super Gonorrhea, you have to see your Doctor immediately. DTAP clinics focus on STD screening and STD treatment. We offer rapid PCR testing for Gonorrhea (next day results) as well as culture tests to detect multi-drug resistant (Super) Gonorrhea. 

Speak to your doctor if you have any questions regarding Gonorrhea or other STDs.


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Sexually Transmitted Infections: More Than 1 Million New Cases Every Single Day

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report in June 2019 stating that every single day, there are more than 1 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among people aged 15-49 years. These are just from 4 infections – chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis.

This amounts to more than 376 million new cases annually. This is probably a lower number than the actual prevalence in the global population, as these are just the reported cases. On average, approximately 1 in 25 people globally have at least one of these STIs, with some experiencing multiple infections at the same time.

 

About these 4 STIs

Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are bacterial infections that can be spread through sexual intercourse (oral, vaginal or anal). They can be asymptomatic in some people, but in others can cause urinary symptoms such as penile or vaginal pain, urethral discharge, pain on passing urine, urinary frequency and urgency.

They can also cause irregular spotting in females. The long term complications of untreated chlamydia and gonorrhoea are pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in females and infertility in both sexes.

 Also Read:

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is caused by infection by a parasite transmitted during sexual intercourse. The parasite usually infects the lower genital tract (vagina or penis). It can also cause symptoms such as those mentioned above.

Also Read: STD Symptoms in Women

 

Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can result in genital ulcers and a rash. In its later stages, syphilis can affect your eyes, ears, heart, nerves, bones, kidneys and liver. It can cause serious cardiovascular and neurological disease and even death.

Also Read: Signs & Symptoms of Syphilis: Painless STD Sores & Rashes

All four diseases are associated with an increased risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV. Transmission of these diseases during pregnancy can lead to serious consequences for babies including stillbirth, neonatal death, low birth-weight and prematurity, sepsis, blindness, pneumonia, and congenital deformities.

Also Read:

It is important to note that most cases are asymptomatic, meaning people may not have any symptoms at all and are unaware they have an infection if they do not test for these STIs.

 

How Do We Go About Managing These STIs?

These 4 infections are easily detectable, preventable and curable.

STD Testing: There are multiple ways to detect these STIs, but in general, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Trichomonas can be detected with a swab test in females or a urine test in males. Syphilis can be detected with a blood test. Read: Comprehensive STD Screening

STD Treatment: After being treated with antibiotics, these infections can be fully cleared from the body. However, because a significant proportion of people can be without symptoms, these infections can go untreated in a person for long periods of time, wreaking havoc on their genitourinary and reproductive tract. These people can also spread these infections to other people, exacerbating this persistent and endemic health threat.

A point to note is that some strains of these infections (Gonorrhoea in particular) are developing multi-drug resistance and evolving into “super-bugs” that are increasingly difficult to treat with current antibiotics. Significant resources are being directed to research in this area, but the most important thing is to get tested and treated early.

 

Who Should Get Tested?

If you have never been tested for STIs before, but have been exposed to sexual encounters in the past, we would recommend you to get tested.

 We also recommend anyone who has had a new sexual encounter to get tested, even if you had used condoms. While it is true that condoms greatly reduce the risk of transmission of STIs, it does not absolutely foolproof as unsurprisingly in the real world they are not always used perfectly.

 Of course, if you have any symptoms, please do get tested and treated.

 

Other STIs

The above 4 STIs are just 4 of the many STIs that you can acquire through sexual contact. There are other STIs that we are concerned about. Other STIs such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Chancroid, Molluscum, Pubic Lice and Scabies are some others that we are also concerned about.

It is important that sexually active individuals read up and learn about these STIs to know the signs, symptoms, and modes of transmission to better protect themselves. Knowing more about these STIs will also encourage a person to get treated early should they develop such symptoms.

 

How Do You Reduce Your Risk of Contracting These STIs?

Abstinence is the only way to reduce your risk to zero.

If you are sexually active, use barrier protection such as condoms, the right way. You can also speak to your partner to get tested for STIs before engaging in sexual activity.  A mutually monogamous relationship also carries a lower risk of STIs than having multiple sexual partners.

 If you are sexually active with multiple sexual partners, get yourself tested regularly and treated. The presence of one STI can increase your risk of contracting another one more easily. Most STIs can easily be detected through swabs, urine or blood tests at your doctors. These are rather pain-free and minimally invasive, so there should be no fear to get tested!

There are some STIs that are preventable through vaccinations. HPV Vaccines are available against certain strains of HPV that may cause warts, cervical, anal and penile cancer. Effective vaccines against Hepatitis B are available as well.

 

Conclusion

In summary, the WHO has highlighted the 4 STIs specifically as they are the one which can be completely eradicated from the body if treated properly. But there are other STIs that we should be concerned about too. The best thing you can do is to protect yourself against these STIs through the above-mentioned suggestions.

Get yourself tested regularly if you have new sexual partners. If you have any symptoms, get yourself treated early, and avoid sexual contact until you have been treated and cleared by the doctor as well. 

Take Care & Stay safe!


Other Interesting Reads:

  1. An Overview of STD – From an STD Doctor
  2. The HIV Pro-Virus DNA Test can be done 10 days post exposure.
  3. Weak Erection? Erectile Dysfunction? How to Improve Erection with Pills
  4. Is HPV Vaccine Necessary for Males?
  5. Do I Have HIV Rash? Or Are They Other STD-Related Rashes?
  6. Sexual Health Advice for Travellers
  7. Is HPV Vaccine Necessary for Males?
  8. What You Need To Know about HPV, Cervical Cancer, Pap Smear & HPV Vaccination
  9. 11 Causes of Dyspareunia (Pain During Intercourse)
  10. What is HPV Vaccination (Gardasil 9)
  11. 10 Causes of abnormal Vaginal Lumps and Bumps
  12. An Overview of Gonorrhoea
  13. Genital Warts: The Cauliflower-Like Lumps on the Genitals
  14. Syphilis Symptoms (Painless STD Sores & STD Rashes) 


Also see: wart removal singapore, hiv screening, std check up singapore