STDs – also known as Sexually Transmitted Diseases – are on the rise in North America, with the United States at the forefront of an alarming rate of diagnosed cases of chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea, this according to a new government analysis. The National Coalition of STD Directors says the country is in the middle of a public health crisis.

See: ‘CDC: Sexually Transmitted Diseases’

Many of the Sexually Transmitted Diseases we hear about are transmitted through coming into contact with bodily fluids. These fluids can include those that are vaginal, semen, or even blood. They can also be contracted through contact with mucous membranes or skin that is infected (i.e. mouth sores.) A person is exposed to these fluids through having sexual contact (such as vaginal, anal, or oral sex) with someone who is already infected with an STD.

Among the rising rates of STDs, the CDC says that gonorrhea seems to be growing at a much more rapid rate compared to other sexually transmitted diseases. There are an estimated 80 million new cases of gonorrhea diagnosed each year on a global scale, and just under 1 million diagnosed each year in the United States (and cases diagnosed jumped by as much as 67% last year.) It’s also on the rise in Canada…and while this particular infection was once easily treated with antibiotics, it’s now starting to become resistant to them. It might seem like a small number, but as many as 5% of gonorrhea samples were found to be resistant to Azithromycin (Zithromax), a common antibiotic used to cure the bacterial infection, along with resistance to other antibiotic treatment. Because of this, gonorrhea is considered a much more complex condition to treat, which could lead to a multitude of problems without an effective remedy. These problems include chronic pain (such as pain in the abdomen or pelvis), an increased risk of contracting and/or transmitting HIV, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, as well as affect a couple’s ability to get pregnant at all.

One of the biggest reasons why the health industry may be seeing such a rise in this and other sexually transmitted diseases could be due to a lack of sexual education and the fact that many patients either don’t know they need to ask to be screened for STDs, or because they feel too embarrassed to ask, leaving many cases undiagnosed, thus increasing the risk of those who are already infected potentially spreading the infection on to other sexual partners, and the vicious cycle continues. Another reason that cases of gonorrhea go undiagnosed is because symptoms are sometimes absent; and without symptoms, this can be sometime that is easy for individuals to overlook or not think twice about. However, when symptoms do occur, they can include the following:

• Urethral discharge that resembles pus and is white, yellow or green in colour
• Discharge, bleeding or pain when passing stools
• Painful urination
• Frequent urination
• Pain in the scrotum or the testicles
• Swollen lymph nodes
• Red, swollen and/or warm and painful joints

• Pain during sexual intercourse
• Bleeding after sexual intercourse
• Vaginal discharge that is green or yellow in colour
• Painful urination
• Frequent urination
• Vulvar swelling
• Bleeding unrelated to menstrual cycles
• Heavier periods
• Abdominal or pelvic pain
• Vomiting
• Fever

To avoid the development and spread of gonorrhea, you should always practice safe sex by using condoms, and also get tested regularly for this and other sexually transmitted diseases. To learn more about the prevention of other sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, genital herpes and HPV, click here.