What is Gonorrhoea and how is it passed on?

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection which passes between people through sexual activity including vaginal, anal and oral sex. It can also be passed on through sharing sex toys. Gonorrhoea can also be passed from mother to child during delivery.

Untreated gonorrhoea can lead to complications such as infertility, pregnancy in the tubes (ectopic pregnancy), infective arthritis, long term pain in the lower abdomen (women) and testicular pain.

What are the symptoms of Gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is believed to cause symptoms in most men who have an infection in their penis  (about 9 in 10 affected). However, about 50% of  women with gonorrhoea, and men and women with gonorrhoea in the rectum or throat , do not get any symptoms.

Gonorrhoea symptoms in men can include:

  • A clear, creamy or yellow-coloured discharge from the penis.
  • Burning and stinging when passing urine.
  • Irritation inside the penis, or a feeling of wanting to pass urine frequently.
  • Redness at the opening of the urethra at the end of the penis.
  • Painful and swollen testicles.

Gonorrhoea symptoms in women might include:

  • A change in the normal vaginal discharge for example an increase in amount of discharge and/or change in colour.
  • Bleeding or spotting between periods.
  • Pain in the lower part of the abdomen during vaginal sex.
  • Pain in the lower abdomen/pelvic area.
  • Bleeding during or after sex when you are not on your period.

In men and women, infection of the rectum with gonorrhoea is mostly without symptoms but can cause:

  • Itching around the anus.
  • Discharge and/or bleeding from the anus.
  • A feeling that the bowel has not emptied properly after passing stools.
  • Painful bowel movements.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above you should see a doctor or nurse at your local clinic as you may require an examination, extra tests and treatment.

Can Gonorrhoea be cured?

Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics. There has been a rise in the number of cases of gonorrhoea which are resistant to certain antibiotics. If your test comes back showing gonorrhoea, you will be asked to have a different type of gonorrhoea test so that the strain of gonorrhoea can be tested against available antibiotics. You will then be treated with an antibiotic injection in addition to antibiotics tablets. If you have a partner or partners with whom you have regular sex they will also need treatment in order to prevent you becoming re-infected following treatment.

How Can I protect myself from gonorrhoea?

Using a condom each time you have oral, vaginal or anal sex will reduce risk of catching gonorrhoea.

If you are starting a new relationship, get tested together before you start having unprotected sex.

Regular testing – for example when you have a change in sexual partner – will reduce the risk of developing the complications associated with gonorrhoea.

If you don’t have any symptoms but think you may have been at risk from gonorrhoea you can take your own test via this service.