What Is Gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is oftentimes referred to as ‘the clap’. It is caused by a certain type of bacteria known as Neisseria Gonorrhoeae. The infection spreads through skin-to-skin contact. In men, it usually affects the urethra. In women, it often infects the cervix, urethra, or both. It mainly affects the vagina or penis, but it can also infect eyes, throat, or rectum.
Gonorrhea is one of the most commonly occurring STDs in the United States. In the year 2016, more than 450,000 new cases of gonorrhea emerged and were reported to the CDC in the U.S. alone. The infection is mainly common in young people, and less than half of these infections are reported and treated.
Gonorrhea does not prove to be problematic if you treat it immediately. However, if left untreated, it can cause serious issues. For a woman, untreated gonorrhea infection can further affect the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. This can lead to sore tissue and inflammation, called as pelvic inflammatory disease. PID can further lead to ectopic pregnancy or infertility.
Symptoms Of Gonorrhea
Many people suffering from gonorrhea do not show any symptoms, eventually transmitting the infection onto their partners without even knowing it. Some of the common symptoms of gonorrhea include:
- Painful urination
- Abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis
- Sore throat
- Flu-like symptoms
Gonorrhea symptoms in men are easier to notice than symptoms in women. However, some men may have mild or no symptoms at all.
In women, the early signs may be mild that could be mistaken for vaginal or bladder infection. However, when the untreated infection affects the woman’s pelvis, vital symptoms such as pain in the lower abdomen, vaginal bleeding, painful sex, and fever may be experienced.
The time frame from exposure to gonorrheal infection until the symptoms show up is generally between 2 to 5 days. Nevertheless, it may take up to 30 days before the signs show up.
An infected individual can still pass on gonorrhea even when they do not have any symptoms. The person becomes contagious until they get proper treatment.
What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is another commonly reported sexually transmitted disease in the United States. It is caused by a certain type of bacteria, which can be transmitted from one person to another during oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Infection may occur in the urethra, reproductive organs, mouth, and rectum. In women, the most common place for the infection to occur is the cervix.
Many people contract chlamydia – it could be as many as 1 in 10 sexually active women test positive for it. In the year 2016, more than half a million new cases of chlamydia were reported to the CDC in the United States alone.
An individual can contract chlamydia infection from any type of sex. The infection lives in the type of a tissue that lines the openings of the body such as the urethra, vagina, the throat or the rectum. It can get transmitted between sexual partners any time these tissues come along – which happens usually during unprotected anal or vaginal sex. It is rare, but not impossible to contract chlamydia from oral sex.
Chlamydia infection generally does not cause symptoms. However, when the symptoms occur, they may take a few days to show up or even weeks after the individual has been exposed to the infection. They may be mild and can be mistaken for vaginal or urinary tract infection. Some of the most common chlamydia symptoms in women include:
- Frequent or painful urination
- Yellowish discharge from the urethra or vagina
- Vaginal bleeding during periods
- Rectal discharge, bleeding, or pain
Common symptoms of chlamydia in men include:
- Discharge from the penis
- Painful urination
- Itching or burning around the opening of the penis
- Swelling and pain in one or both testicles
Chlamydia is often referred to as a ‘silent’ infection because people are generally unaware that they have contracted it. In a large percentage of chlamydia infections in men, no symptoms show up, in others some of the common symptoms develop several weeks after they have contracted the infection.
Do Gonorrhea and Chlamydia Go Away By Itself?
Can you expect gonorrhea and chlamydia to go away without treatment? Does it clear up? These are some of the vital questions people ask their healthcare practitioners. These are tricky questions to answer, and this is because of various reasons.
First and foremost, it is imperative for people to understand that some of the viral sexually transmitted infections stay with them for life, such as HIV and herpes. Others like human papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B can be prevented with the help of vaccines but cannot be completely cured. It is very much possible for the immune system to defeat HPV and the hepatitis B virus. In some cases, these viruses’ can not be cleared up, causing chronic illnesses that stay for life, eventually leading to cancer.
Non-viral sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can be cured. However, they generally do not show any symptoms, or the symptoms may come and go, making it appear as the infection went away when it actually did not. You need to be tested to know if you have been infected. Diagnosis based only on the symptoms is not accurate as the symptoms might subside but the infection might still be present. Getting screened is important to receive proper treatment.
However, people still would want to know if gonorrhea and chlamydia go away on their own? The fact is that there are not many studies on the ‘natural history’ of curable sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. Going through the natural course of curable infections would require the scientists to put their subjects at risk of the dangers of long-term infection and no medical board would approve such an experiment.
So, people wondering if STDs go away on their own must ask about what will happen if the STDs are not timely diagnosed and properly treated? If you think that you have contracted an STD, the best course of action here is to seek medical assistance immediately. Do not cross your fingers and hope that it goes away on its own. The symptoms may fade away, but the viruses can still be wreaking the immune system in disguise. If your immune system is unable to fight off the virus, irreversible damage might have already been done.
Do These Infections Cure By Themselves?
Chlamydia and gonorrhea usually do not show any symptoms, but the infection can either increase the risk for HIV transmissions or harm fertility. Gonorrhea or chlamydia can lead to PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), which can lead to tissue damage of the reproductive organs resulting in ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and chronic pain. In addition, the infection can either be passed on to the newborns during childbirth. Studies show emerging evidence that chlamydia may also increase the risk of cervical cancer.
In men chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to scarring that prevents sperm’s movement out of the testes, which leads to epididymitis that is further associated with chronic scrotal pain, infertility, and testicular shrinkage. Chlamydia happens to be the prime cause of epididymitis in heterosexuals who are 35 years old or younger.
Due to the complexity in conducting ethical studies, the natural histories of untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia infections are not very well acknowledged. Oftentimes, scientists examine stored specimens that were taken for other experiments and retroactively test them for gonorrhea or chlamydia to get a sense of how such infections develop over the period of time. People with asymptomatic conditions may get regular STD testing – when their results show positive, they are called back for further treatment, but first re-tested to see if the infections cured themselves or not. This type of study just cannot ascertain how long the infection persisted before it was being diagnosed or how long it can endure without the right treatment, as most participants had antibiotics a few weeks ago after they were first tested for the infections.
The Bottom Line
The upshot is that it is possible for some people, not all, that their STDs cure themselves, but it is also very likely for the STD to persist for months, years, or even for a lifetime. If you could have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, the best thing you can do here is to get yourself screened. You can be screened and treated for sexually transmitted infections, be vaccinated against hepatitis B or HPV, or may consider having protected sex by using dental dams or condoms every time you have sex.