If young men and women realized the evil effects of this venereal disease, they would be far more cautious than they are in having promiscuous sexual relations, for these may last for a whole life-time, and result in complications which cause them anguish and annoyance years later. The common belief that gonorrhoea is relatively unimportant a simple disease which runs its course in two or three weeks and then spontaneously cures itself is utterly false and leads to regrets and disaster. It is one of the most insidious and wide-spread of all diseases, and it is imperative that it should be prevented if possible, or, if contracted, treated promptly.
The cause of gonorrhoea is a small bacillus, known as the gonococcus, which flourishes in moist, warm, mucous surfaces, where it rapidly multiplies. The lining of the urethra supplies these ideal conditions, with the result that, in from three to seven days after infection, a yellowish discharge begins to take place, characteristic of the disease. This is highly infectious, and if transferred to towels, wash-cloths, sponges, etc., may spread the disease to anyone using them. In the vast majority of cases, however, it is contracted by direct sexual contact.
These bacilli, once introduced into the urethra, spread along the mucous surface; and when they reach the upper portion of the canal, they wander into the prostate gland and the seminal vesicles. From there, they may ascend to the bladder, causing an inflammatory condition known as cystitis. They may also travel on through the seminal ducts into the epididymis, where they produce a very painful inflammation. Fever accompanies all these conditions. If the epididymis is infected, the man thereafter is sterile; he can no longer have children:
This inflammatory infection of the urethra and bladder produces a frequent desire to urinate, because of the constant irritation; but the urination is attended by intense pain, as the acid urine passes over these areas. From the bladder, the germs may pass upwards to the kidneys which is a serious complication.
Gonorrhoea, when untreated, results in stricture of the urethra, caused by scars which narrow the tube so that the passage of urine becomes difficult. It is then only voided in drops, or in a thin, twisted stream, or in a double stream. These strictures last for life. Relief may only be found by dilating the urethra by instrumental means, which is a painful process. Moreover, it is not lasting, and the operation has to be performed again and again, every six months or every year, as long as the patient lives, if relief is to be obtained.
Infection of the prostate gland causes it to become enlarged and inflamed, and this is most difficult to cure. It frequently leads to cancer. A large percentage of men past middle age suffer from prostate trouble, usually due to gonorrhoeal infection in their early years. It is progressive and often lasts for life, becoming increasingly troublesome as the years pass.
The gonococci are carried to all parts of the body, later affecting the joints (gonorrhoeal rheumatism) and the heart muscles, as well as other muscles throughout the body. These conditions are both painful and dangerous, but are frequent results from gonorrhoea.
The initial stage of this disease is acute, but if not immediately and properly treated, will become chronic. This condition is hard to cure, and may last for years, or even for life. The gonococci are very tenacious of life, and live in the folds of the mucous membrane, often remaining inactive for long periods of time, and then again being stimulated into renewed activity. In these cases, there is a very slight discharge, which may not even be noticed in the daytime, but is evident in the morning. For this reason, it is known as the morning drop. This shows that the man is still not cured, and he can infect a woman at any time if he has sexual intercourse with her. This re-stimulation of the germs may be due to enervating modes of life, sexual excesses, and particularly alcohol. The effect of this is like pouring oil on a fire.
So far, we have referred almost exclusively to gonorrhoea in the male. In the female its effects are even more serious; for, though the discharge is usually not so noticeable, and there is not the same pain in urinating (due to the fact that the urine does not pass through the same canal, as it does in men), the effects upon her sexual organs and general health are even more disastrous; and what is more, they are liable to infect the child at birth, causing blindness and other troubles.
If unchecked, the germs may travel from the vagina into the uterus, and then into the Fallopian tubes and ovaries, where they set up a severe inflammation. They may infect the glands on either side of the vaginal opening. As in a man, the bladder and kidneys may also become infected, and the urine may be tinged with blood. If neglected or improperly treated, the acute stage will pass into the chronic stage, and the woman is capable of passing on the disease to men for months or years to come.
If the tubes and ovaries are affected, this may seriously impair the woman’s health, and is a common cause of sterility. In-asmuch as the upper end of the tubes open freely into the abdominal cavity, pus containing the germs may pass into it, with the result that peritonitis sets in. In view of the fact that the vagina is filled with these germs, it is only natural that the child, at birth, should be covered with them, when bom through this passage. It is, therefore, infected at birth.
The percentage of those afflicted with gonorrhoea is almost unbelievable. It has been estimated that approximately ten percent of the population suffer from it that is, that they have the disease at the present time. Post-mortems reveal the fact that from 60 to 90 percent of males have been infected at one time in their lives, and more than 50 percent of females. Practically all prostitutes have gonorrhoea, which, in their cases, have become chronic. There are, in this country, more than 30,000 infections daily. The loss in work, time, health and money, because of this, is almost incalculable. Suicides, divorces and the disintegration of families may be traced to this cause in thousands upon thousands of cases.
Prevention is better than cure, and the only way to prevent gonorrhoeal infection is to avoid sexual intercourse with those who might possibly be infected and who can say who is and who is not? That is why promiscuous contact is always danger-ous. If a young man or a young woman has indulged in this way, and there is the slightest doubt in his or her mind as to the sexual health of the other party, a doctor should be consulted immediately and this means without an hour’s delay. Infection occurs rapidly, and treatment should be undertaken before the germs have time to gain a foothold in the urethra or the vagina. Do not attempt to treat yourself if you become infected, but see your doctor at once. New drugs and prophylactic measures are now available, which can prevent and cure gonorrhoeal infection promptly, if used immediately, and if no time has been allowed to elapse before they are utilized. In the meantime, and as a preliminary precaution, the man should urinate promptly after intercourse, since any acid tends to kill the germs. After urination, the head of the penis should be wiped with cotton saturated with vinegar or lemon juice. The woman too, should follow the same procedure, followed by a douche or diluted lemon juice or vinegar. However, these are only temporary measures, and you should see your doctor at once, if you feel there is the slightest danger of gonorrhoeal infection.
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