We often think of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as something affecting our reproductive system in the first place. This thought does have a foundation, as sexual activity in most cases includes penetrative sexual intercourse, either vaginal or anal. But sexual practices are much more diverse than this, and various infections can be transmitted while partners engage in them. Gonorrhea of the throat is one such condition.
Gonorrhea is a very common STD: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 700,000 people in the US get new gonococcal infections every year. The condition is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, aka gonococcus, which is a Gram-negative obligate aerobic bacteria resembling a kidney bean under a microscope.
Gonorrhea often manifests as a urogenital infection due to the way of transmission. It can be completely asymptomatic or the infected person can develop such symptoms:
- unusual discharge from the genitals;
- unpleasant, painful, or burning feeling during sexual penetration or urination;
- swollen groin lymph nodes or testicles (of the AMAB person).
But if exposure to the infection occurred during mouth contact with the body fluid of the infected sexual partner, the patient may develop throat gonorrhea.
What is Oral Gonorrhea?
Throat gonorrhea is also called oral or pharyngeal. It happens when the gonococcal infection affects a person’s oral cavity. The medics do not know exactly how common this STD form is: since gonorrhea throat symptoms can be very unclear or simply absent, many people do not get tested.
Modes of transmission
Oral gonorrhea is most commonly transmitted through unprotected oral sex. The contagion happens when the mucous membranes in the person’s mouth contact with rectal mucous membranes or vaginal and seminal fluids contaminated with Neisseria gonorrhoeae and its discharge. Thus, the transmission can occur during:
- fellation (oral interaction with a penis);
- cunnilingus (oral stimulation of the clitoris or vagina);
- rimming (oral contact with an anus).
There was an Australian study claiming that pharyngeal gonorrhea can be also passed through kissing but the subject does need more attention and research. One trial cannot provide enough data to make final conclusions.
As it is with STDs, the person is at increased risk of being exposed to oral gonorrhea and getting sick in such cases:
- having unprotected sex;
- having sex with many different partners;
- engaging in anonymous sexual activities;
- having sex under the influence of mind-altering substances (e.g. drug or alcohol);
- being forced to have sex.
If any point on the list is relatable to you, we strongly recommend consulting your doctor and getting tested.
Similar to other forms, throat gonorrhea can proceed and not show any attributes of the disease. Sometimes, it somewhat resembles strep throat. Look at the possible signs of gonorrhea in the throat:
- sore throat;
- difficulty swallowing;
- redness in the back of the throat;
- swollen neck lymph nodes.
If you notice some of the listed symptoms sometime after you had unprotected sex, contact your medical professional and discuss the necessity to get tested. The test to diagnose N. gonorrhoeae is done by swabbing the mucous membrane on the back of the oral cavity and then rubbing the swab against the dedicated culture plate. You will likely know the results in several days as the bacteria need time to grow a colony the doctors can determine.
If the infection has spread to the genitals, the symptoms of the urogenital form are also possible—they should be addressed as well.
Treatment for Gonorrhea in the Throat
Antibacterial medications are the only proper method for gonorrhea treatment as it is the only one that has proven effective. Please note that oral STIs are more tricky to treat than genital or rectal, so do not hesitate with treatment and be extra careful to follow all doctor’s recommendations.
For uncomplicated gonorrhea, the CDC recommends a one-time intramuscular injection of 500 mg of ceftriaxone. If the patient’s weight is close to 150 kg or more than that, the dosage can be increased to 1 g. The medication can be diluted with 1% lidocaine to lessen the pain during injection. Until recently, the injection could be backed with a dose of azithromycin per os (orally), but due to the growing bacterial drug resistance, this treatment protocol has been suspended.
However, if the infected patient has an allergy to cephalosporin antibiotics to which ceftriaxone belongs, they could be treated with an intramuscular dose of 240 mg of gentamicin combined with a 2-g dose of Zithromax or another azithromycin pills.
If you keep in contact with your recent sexual partner or are in constant relationships, you should alert them after being tested positive for gonorrhea—they may need treatment as well. After treatment, you will be tested again in 7 to 14 days to check if the infection is gone. Until you got a confirmation that you are healthy again, it is important to restrain from any sexual activity to avoid reinfection.
Importance of completing treatment
Whenever you start an antibiotical treatment, it is absolutely necessary to fully complete it. The reason is that the course is calculated to eradicate the infection completely. People often think that the medication worked when they start feeling better and stop taking it. If you do that while treating bacterial infection, the remaining bacteria will develop immunity to this antibiotic and after a while, the disease will return and it will be much harder to cure.
Gonorrhea in the Throat Prevention
So, what can you do to prevent gonorrhea in your throat? There is some speculation that mouthwash like Listerin can help you get rid of the gonococci in the mouth, but it lacks scientific backing. Anyway, good dental hygiene never hurts. But here are some things that can actually significantly lessen the risk.
Safe sex practices
While enjoying your sexual life to its fullest is a great thing, remember about safety. Use barrier protection, such as condoms and dental dams, and consider monogamic relationships with the person who has been tested and proven to be healthy.
Regular screening and testing
Remember that STDs often рфму hidden development. If you are sexually active, having regular check-ups, tests, and screens will allow you to timely catch the infection and successfully cure it.
While the vaccine to prevent gonococcal infection is still at the earliest stages of development, you can vaccinate against other infections that can affect your immune system and make you prone to gonorrhea. This incudes HPV and hepatitis.
If left unchecked, oral gonorrhea can spread to your reproductive system and lead to the following consequences:
- complicated pregnancy;
- inability to conceive;
- higher risk of contracting other STIs, including HIV.
It can also get transferred to other parts of the organism through your blood flow. This condition is called disseminated or systemic gonococcal infection; it affects joints, skin, or even the heart.
Pharyngeal gonorrhea is hard to detect, but it is treatable with proper medications. In the majority of cases, it is transmitted during unprotected sex, therefore, practicing safe sex greatly reduces your risk of exposure.
How do you know if you have gonorrhea in your throat?
You should get tested if you are suggesting it—only testing can get you a correct diagnosis.
Does gonorrhea in the throat go away?
When exposed, one has a chance that their immune system will eliminate the infection on its own. If someone starts noticing symptoms or gets a positive test result, they will need medical treatment.
What kills gonorrhea in the throat?
Antibiotical injections and pills are the only working method.
How serious is throat gonorrhea?
It is treatable but can lead to rather nasty complications, so one should not leave it untreated.
What does gonorrhea look like in the throat?
It may look like strep throat with all the redness, fever, and swelling. The patient can also have no signs of the disease at all.