More info on Throat Gonorrhea
All of us are familiar with Gonorrhea. It is an STD. It causes a thick yellow discharge and pain passing urine in both men and women. The symptoms can come on anytime between 3 to 30 days of exposure although 10% of people infected with Gonorrhoea will not show any symptoms. And it is easily treated with antibiotics although the risk of antibiotic resistant Gonorrhoea is rising.
Let’s get back to basics. Gonorrhoea is a bacteria. It can and will infect any area of the body that is soft, warm and moist, namely mucosa. The 3 areas of mucosa exposed to the environment are the genital tract, anus and throat. So, if the Gonorrhoea bacteria lands on any of these areas, it will set up home and cause an infection. So far so good?
Needless to say, these 3 areas of mucosa frequently come into contact during a sexual encounter. Gonorrhoea can therefore pass from one area to another as long as they come into contact. So pick any combination you want; penis-mouth, vagina-mouth, penis-vagina, penis-anus, vagina-vagina, anus-mouth, mouth-mouth etc etc. As long as one party has Gonorrhoea, the other has a chance of catching it.
So if you have used your mouth during a sexual contact, and your partner has Gonorrhea, the chances are you could very well have throat Gonorrhea.
Throat Gonorrhea is not always associated with Urethral Gonorrhea. . (In one study 23% of patients with Throat Gonorrhoea do not have either Urethral or Rectal gonorrhoea.) In other words, you could have Throat Gonorrhoea only even if you had full on penetrative sex as well as oral sex with your partner. And since most doctors will only screen the urine for Gonorrhoea, this frequently misses a Throat Gonorrhoea infection.
So you could very well end up with a situation like this. Mr. A was diagnosed with Gonorrhoea of his penis. He was treated. His girlfriend, Ms. B had a urine test which found no Gonorrhoea. 2 weeks later, Mr. A came back with another Gonorrhoea infection. Ms. B was furious because she was convinced Mr. A was cheating on her. Mr. A pleaded his innocence. They came to see me. We swabbed Ms. B’s throat and found Gonorrhoea. It seems that she was passing the Gonorrhoea back to Mr. A while they were having oral sex. Ms. B was treated and they lived happily ever after.
This illustrates the other problem with Throat Gonorrhea. 90% to 95% of people infected with Throat Gonorrhea do not have any symptoms! Only 5% to 10% of people infected will have symptoms of sore throat, pus on the tonsils, fever and swollen lymph nodes. So really the only reliable way to know if you have been infected with Throat Gonorrhoea or not is to get a throat swab done.
Throat Gonorrhoea is also very common. One study found 3.5% to 6.8% of adolescent women carrying throat gonorrhoea. Another study in Japanese men found a whopping 11.9% with throat gonorrhoea and as if this was not high enough, this number jumped to 25% for the men who also had urethral gonorrhoea.
As if all that wasn’t bad enough, Throat Gonorrhoea is actually harder to cure than urethral gonorrhoea. This means that with the usual dose of antibiotics, the Gonorrhoea in the throat usually persists. Aside from being really troublesome for the patient, this also leads to a higher risk of the Gonorrhoea becoming antibiotic resistant.
So let’s summarize all things bad about Throat Gonorrhoea:
- It is commonly asymptomatic
- It is harder to cure
- It can lead to antibiotic resistance
- It can be transmitted to the genitals via oral sex
- It is frequently NOT related to genital infections
So if you think you might have Throat Gonorrhea, go see your doctor for a test today.
Click here to read our older post on Throat Gonorrhea.
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Dr. Tan graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2001. His residency was in the two largest public hospitals in Singapore; Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Singapore General Hospital.