About Gonorrhoea

  • Gonorrhoea (sometimes spelt gonorrhea) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is passed from one person to another through unprotected sex (sex without a condom).
  • Gonorrhoea is less common than chlamydia but still affects thousands of people in the UK.
  • Usually gonorrhoea can be easily treated although recently new strains of 'super' gonorrhoea have been found which are resistant to treatment.
  • Not everyone experiences symptoms of gonorrhoea.
  • Getting tested is the only way you'll know if you've been infected.

How do you get Gonorrhoea?

  • Penetrative vaginal or anal sex (where the penis enters the vagina or anus).
  • Oral sex (from mouth to the genitals).
  • Occasionally by touching the eyes after touching the genitals.
  • In some cases it can be passed through genital contact or sharing of vibrators or other sex toys.
  • It can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby.

Signs and Symptoms of Gonorrhoea

Symptoms in women:

Around 50% of women infected won’t notice any symptoms.

  • Unusual discharge from the vagina, which may be thick and green or yellow in colour.
  • Pain when peeing.
  • Pain or tenderness in the lower abdominal area.
  • Bleeding between periods or heavier periods.

Symptoms in men:

Around 80-90% of men who contract gonorrhoea experience symptoms after they are infected, which can include:

  • an unusual discharge from the tip of the penis, which may be white, yellow or green
  • pain or a burning sensation when peeing
  • inflammation (swelling) of the foreskin
  • pain or tenderness in the testicles or prostate gland

Symptoms in men and women:

Both men and women can also catch gonorrhoea at other sites of the body, including:

  • Infection in the rectum, which may cause pain, discomfort or discharge.
  • Infection in the throat, which does not usually have any symptoms.
  • Infection in the eyes, which can cause pain, swelling, irritation and discharge (conjunctivitis).

Risks of a Gonorrhoea Infecton

If treated early, gonorrhoea is unlikely to lead to any complications or long-term problems. However, without treatment, it can spread to other parts of your body and cause serious problems.

The more times you have gonorrhoea, the more likely you are to have complications.

In women, gonorrhoea can spread to the reproductive organs and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to long-term pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy and infertility.

During pregnancy, gonorrhoea can cause:

  • miscarriage
  • premature labour
  • the baby being born with conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye) which can lead to permanent blindness

In men, gonorrhoea can cause painful infection in the testicles, which may lead to reduced fertility in a small number of cases.

In rare cases, when gonorrhoea has been left untreated, it can spread through the bloodstream to cause life-threatening infections in other parts of the body (septicaemia).

What is the treatment for Gonorrhoea?

  • If you test positive, free treatment will be arranged via your local sexual health service. Further tests will be needed to confirm the result but these won't delay treatment.
  • Gonorrhoea is usually treated with a single antibiotic injection and a single antibiotic tablet. With effective treatment, most of your symptoms should improve within a few days.
  • It's usually recommended that you attend a follow-up appointment a week or two after treatment, so another test can be carried out to see if you're clear of infection.
  • If there is a chance that you may have been infected with gonorrhoea from a partner (for example, if they tested positive) you might be offered treatment before receiving any test results.

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