Gonorrhea is a contagious inflammation of the urethra, accompanied by a white or yellowish discharge. It is caused by a specific germ, the gonococcus , and is acquired through sexual intercourse with a person suffering from this disease. Exceptionally the disease may be conveyed by objects soiled with the discharge, as basins, towels, and, in children, diapers, so that in institutions for infants it may be thus transferred from one to the other, causing an epidemic. The mucous membrane of the lower part of the bowel and the eyes are also subject to the disease through contamination with the discharge. The disease begins usually three to seven days after sexual intercourse, with symptoms of burning, smarting, and pain on urination, and a watery discharge from the passage, soon followed by a yellowish or white secretion. Swelling of the penis, frequent urination, and painful erections are also common symptoms. The disease, if uncomplicated and running a favorable course, may end in recovery within six weeks or earlier, with proper treatment. On the other hand, complications are exceedingly frequent, and the disorder often terminates in a chronic inflammation which may persist for years even without the knowledge of the patient and may result in the infection of others after all visible signs have ceased to appear.
Treatment. Rest is the most important requisite; at first, best in bed; if not, the patient should keep as quiet as possible for several days. The diet should consist of large quantities of water or milk, or milk and vichy, with bread, cereals, potatoes, and vegetables absolutely avoiding alcohol in any form. Sexual intercourse is harmful at any stage in the disease and will communicate the infection. Aperient salts should be taken to keep the bowels loose. The penis should be soaked in hot water three times daily to reduce the inflammation and cleanse the organ. A small wad of absorbent cotton may be held in place by drawing the foreskin over it to absorb the discharge, or may be held in place by means of a bag fitting over the penis. All cloths, cotton, etc., which have become soiled with the discharge, should be burned, and the hands should be washed after contact with the discharge; otherwise the contagion may be conveyed to the eyes, producing blindness. It is advisable for the patient to take one half teaspoonful of baking soda in water three times daily between meals for the first four or five days, or, better, fifteen grains of potassium citrate and fifteen drops of sweet spirit of nitre in the same way. Painful erections may be relieved by bathing the penis in cold water, urinating every three hours, and taking twenty grains of sodium bromide at night in water. After all swelling and pain have subsided, local treatment may be begun.
Injections or irrigations with various medicated fluids constitute the best and most efficient measures of local treatment. They should be used only under the advice and management of the physician. No greater mistake can be made than to resort to the advertising quack, the druggist’s clerk, or the prescription furnished by an obliging friend. Skillful treatment, resulting in a complete radical cure, may save him much suffering from avoidable complications and months or years of chronic trouble.
At the same time the first medicines advised are stopped and oleoresin of cubebs, five grains, or copaiba balsam, ten grains or both together are to be taken three times daily after meals, in capsules, for several weeks, unless they disturb the digestion too much. A suspensory bandage should be worn throughout the continuance of the disease. The approach of the cure of the disease is marked by a diminution in the quantity and a change in the character of the discharge, which becomes thinner and less purulent and reduced to merely a drop in the passage in the early morning, but this may continue for a great while. Chronic discharge of this kind and the complications cannot be treated properly by the patient, but require skilled medical care.
In this connection it may be said that most patients have an idea that the subsidence or disappearance of the discharge is an evidence of the cure of the disease. Experience shows that the disease may lapse into a latent or chronic form and remain quiescent, without visible symptoms, during a prolonged period, while susceptible of being revived under the influence of alcoholic drinks or sexual intercourse. It is important that treatment should be continued until all disease germs are destroyed, which can only be determined by an examination of the secretions from the urethra under the microscope.
The more common complications of gonorrhea are inflammation of the glands in the groin (bubo), acute inflammation of the prostate glands and bladder, of the seminal vesicles, or of the testicles. The latter complication is a most common cause of sterility in men. Formerly it was thought that gonorrhea was a local inflammation confined to the urinary canal and neighboring parts, but advances in our knowledge have shown that the germs may be taken up into the general circulation and affect any part of the body, such as the muscles, joints, heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, etc., with results always serious and often fatal to life. One of the most common complications is gonorrheal arthritis, which may affect one or several joints and result in stiffness or complete loss of movement of the affected joint, with more or less deformity and permanent disability. Another complication is gonorrheal inflammation of the eye, from direct transference of the pus by the fingers or otherwise, and resulting in partial or complete blindness.