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Gonorrhea in men: What to expect

Picture of a man covering his crotch area

Gonorrhea is one of the most common STDs in Singapore. Here’s how you can protect yourself from it.

Just the term ‘gonorrhea’ tends to result in panic. However, fret not! My role is to educate and help you understand the disease instead of simply worry in fear.


How contagious is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is one of the most common STDs in Singapore and worldwide. It is highly contagious and caused by a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus The bacteria likes warm, moist environments.

While contracting gonorrhea might be a drag, the good news is it's curable. However, that does not mean that it should not be taken seriously. If left untreated it can trigger lifelong health problems — I’m sure you don’t want that. 

If you have questions regarding this disease or think you may have been exposed, I hope that this post might help to answer your concerns! 

Let's get into it!


How is gonorrhea transmitted?

Gonnorhea can make its way into your system via unprotected sex with an infected person. It then resides in penile and vaginal discharge. Also, just for your information and maybe your partner, an expectant mom can pass the disease on to her baby at birth.


Who is considered to be at high risk?

Well, if you have several sexual partners or you have unprotected sexual intercourse, you run the risk of contracting gonorrhea.


How can I reduce or even eliminate my risk of contracting gonorrhea?

So, no surprise, using protection during sex significantly reduces your risk of contracting gonorrhea. If you and your partner are mutually exclusive, you can virtually eliminate your risk altogether. Of course, abstinence is the sure-fire way to avoid gonorrhea.


What is usually the first sign of gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea infections are mostly symptomless. However, when symptoms exhibit, they can affect various parts of the body including the genitals, eyes, and throat.

Symptoms can show up as early as 2-5 weeks after exposure, but they can also take as long as up to a month to surface. You should also remember sometimes infected individuals never exhibit symptoms.

Symptoms in men may look like this:

  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Itchy feeling during urination
  • Green, yellow or white penile discharge.
  • Painful or swollen testicles.

Gonorrhea can also cause rectal infections in both men and women, with symptoms like: 

  • Bleeding
  • Anal itching
  • Discharge
  • Painful bowel movements

When should I get tested for gonorrhea?

If you are worried, by all means get tested. However, you should speak to your doctor ASAP if any of the following scenarios arise:

  • You have been diagnosed with other STDs.
  • You and your partner plan to have a baby.
  • Your partner has admitted that they have STDs.
  • You had unprotected sex with multiple partners.
  • You and/or your sexual partner are experiencing gonorrhea symptoms mentioned above.
  • You had unprotected sex with a new person.
Gonorrhea

How will my doctor arrive at a diagnosis?

Your doctor will start with a consultation and you will be asked questions about your sexual history.

Men are diagnosed by performing either a swab test or a urine sample test. A swab test is done by passing a swab over the tip of the penis to take a sample of the discharge. Depending on your symptoms your doctor may also take throat and rectal swabs.

The urine sample test is done by testing the urine sample for the gonorrhea bacteria. Your doctor will instruct you to hold your urine for about 4 hours for the ideal sample. Test results usually take a few days to come back.


How is gonorrhea treated?

Luckily, gonorrhea can be treated by a course of antibiotics. There are lots of options and your doctor will recommend the best one for you. Even if you contract one of the most antibiotic-resistant strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, your doctor will prescribe the antibiotic that works best. It goes without saying that your partner should be treated as well even if they have no symptoms. This is because you run the risk of reinfection if you skip this step.


Why should I get treated?

Men — toughing it out should never be your game plan with gonorrhea. You run the risk of having the following complications:

  • Painful testicles
  • Infection of the urethra
  • Inflamed prostate gland
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Rectal infection
  • Throat infection

If the infection makes it into the bloodstream there can be even more dire consequences like:

  • Septicaemia
  • Gonococcal arthritis
  • Increase risk of contracting HIV/Aids
  • Damage to the epididymis, which causes infertility

So yes, please seek treatment.


How can I protect myself from gonorrhea?

Here is how:

  • Consider a mutually monogamous relationship.
  • Limit how many sexual partners you have at one time.
  • Use a condom if you are sexually active.
  • Give abstinence a try.
  • Before starting a sexual relationship, you can both get tested and be transparent regarding the results.
  • Make testing an annual affair if you are sexually active.

You are on the right track if you are already adopting such practices

You should also remember that just because you have had gonorrhea, it does not make you immune. If you don't practice the above measures, you run the risk of reinfection.


If I have gonorrhea, how will my partner be affected?

Well, if you have gonorrhea, chances are your partner is also infected. You should of course be honest and encourage your partner to seek immediate treatment. You should refrain from sexual activity until you are fully recovered.

So, the bottom line is that you should seek treatment as soon as possible if you or your partner contract gonorrhea. To keep track of your STD status, you should schedule annual screenings. Remember to always put your health first.

You most certainly can. Asymptomatic patients are just as contagious as those that have visible symptoms.


References 

  1. Skerlev M, Čulav-Košćak I. Clin Dermatol. 2014 Mar-Apr;32(2):275-81. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2013.08.010. PMID: 24559563 
  2. Unemo M, Seifert HS, Hook EW 3rd, Hawkes S, Ndowa F, Dillon JR. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2019 Nov 21;5(1):79. doi: 10.1038/s41572-019-0128-6. PMID: 31754194 
  3. Davis L. Calif Med. 1967 Jul;107(1):4-7. PMID: 6045488

This article was written and medically reviewed by Dr Ben, M.D on 17/06/2021

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