According to the Utah Department of Health, gonorrhea diagnoses rose 393% between 2011 and 2014. Cases of the sexually transmitted disease increased 717% among women and 296% among men. The age groups that saw the biggest increase in cases were 15- to 25-year-olds and 30- to 34-year-olds.
“We’re certainly not the only place in the country seeing a rise in cases,” says Lynn Beltran, from the Salt Lake County Health Department. “We went from having 200 cases a year to 1,000 cases in 2015, and 40% of those are female.”
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused the bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This bacterium can infect the genital tract, mouth and rectum of both men and women. Ejaculation does not have to occur for the disease to be transmitted. It can also be transmitted from mother to baby during delivery.
Symptoms of gonorrhea usually appear with 2 to 5 days after sexual contact with an infected partner, occasionally symptoms make take longer to appear.
In women, infection may be asymptomatic. If present, the early symptoms of gonorrhea are often mild. The first symptoms in women are frequently; painful or burning sensations when urinating, an increase in discharge (yellow or bloody) and bleeding after intercourse.
Men have symptoms more often than women and they may include; a white, yellow or green discharge from the penis with pain, burning sensations during urination, and painful, swollen testicles.
While infection of the throat and rectum are frequently asymptomatic, rectal infection may have discharge, itching and painful bowel movements.
The complications of untreated gonorrhea are numerous. The most common being pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a serious infection of the female reproductive tract.
Ectopic pregnancy may occur due to scar tissue that’s formed in the fallopian tubes. This can result in miscarriage or death of the mother.
In men, untreated gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the testicles that can lead to infertility.
Rarely, untreated gonorrhea can spread through the blood to the joints, causing permanent joint damage (gonococcal arthritis).
Problems for the newborn that gets gonorrhea during delivery are blindness, joint and blood infections.
When a child has the infection in any part of the body, it’s most commonly due to sexual abuse.
Gonorrhea can be diagnosed by several laboratory procedures. These include staining samples directly for the bacteria, detecting bacterial genes or DNA and growing the organism in laboratory culture.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae is treatable with antibiotics; however it has become resistant to many antibiotics over the years. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia often infect people at the same time; therefore doctors usually prescribe treatment for both diseases.
If you have gonorrhea, all of your sexual partners should get tested and treated if infected, whether or not they have symptoms.