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Gonorrhoea Symptoms, Causes, Test And Treatment

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  • Gonorrhoea Symptoms, Causes, Test And Treatment

    Gonorrhoea is a common STI. In this short video we examine the symptoms, tests and treatment for gonorrhoea.

What is Gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus. It used to be known as "the clap".

How common is Gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a less common STI in the UK than chlamydia, genital warts or genital herpes, but over 17,000 new cases of gonorrhoea were reported in 2011. Young men and women aged 16-24 are the most affected: in 2008, they accounted for 47% of new gonorrhoea diagnoses.

What are the dangers of Gonorrhoea?

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 that you have gonorrhoea, the more likely you are to get 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.

In men, gonorrhoea can cause painful infection in the testicles and prostate gland, which can lead to reduced fertility.

How is Gonorrhoea transmitted?

The gonorrhoea bacteria can infect the vagina or penis and other places that come into contact with infected semen or vaginal fluid during sex. It can live inside the cells of the cervix (entrance to the womb), the urethra (tube where urine comes out), the rectum, the throat and, very occasionally, the eyes.

The infection is most commonly spread through:
• unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
• sharing sex toys if you do not wash them or cover them with a new condom each time

What are Gonorrhoea symptoms?

In women, symptoms of gonorrhoea can include:
• an unusual discharge from the vagina, which may be thick, and green or yellow in colour
• pain when passing urine
• pain or tenderness in the lower abdominal area
• bleeding between periods or heavier periods

Nine out of 10 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 urinating
• inflammation of the foreskin
• pain or tenderness in the testicles or prostate gland

Men and women

Both men and women can also catch gonorrhoea at other sites of the body. These include:
• 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)

Does everybody with the infection get Gonorrhoea symptoms?

Symptoms of gonorrhoea usually show up within two weeks of being infected. But sometimes symptoms may not appear until many months later, or until the infection has spread to other parts of your body.

About one in 10 infected men and half of infected women will not experience any obvious symptoms after contracting gonorrhoea, which means it can go untreated for some time.

What is the standard Gonorrhoea test?


• A doctor or nurse may take a swab to collect a sample from the cervix or vagina during an internal examination.
• You may be asked to use a swab or tampon yourself to collect a sample from inside your vagina.
• Cervical smear tests and routine blood tests do not check for gonorrhoea. If you are not sure if you have been tested for the presence of gonorrhoea, ask your nurse or doctor.


• You may be asked to provide a urine sample and will usually be asked not to pass urine for one to two hours beforehand.

Men and women

• A doctor or nurse may take a swab to collect a sample from the entrance of the urethra (where urine is passed out).

What medicine is used in Gonorrhoea treatment?

Gonorrhoea is treated with a single dose of antibiotics, usually one of the following:
• ceftriaxone
• cefixime
• spectinomycin

The antibiotics are either given as a pill or an injection.

If there is a high chance that you have gonorrhoea, you may be given treatment before you get your results back. You will always be offered treatment if your partner is found to have gonorrhoea.

How can I protect myself against Gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea can be successfully prevented by:
• using condoms (male or female) every time you have vaginal or anal sex
• using a condom to cover the penis, or latex or plastic square (dam) to cover the female genitals if you have oral sex
• not sharing sex toys. If you do share them, wash them and cover them with a new condom before anyone else uses them

Taking these precautions can also help to protect you from getting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as genital herpes and chlamydia.


10670 Revised November 2012

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