What is it?
Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The bacteria can live in the cervix the womb, the urethra , the rectum, the throat and occasionally the eyes.
Anyone who’s sexually active can easily get and pass on gonorrhoea. You don’t need to have lots of sexual partners. It can be painful and, if it’s not treated early, it can cause painful complications and serious health problems
How do I get it?
Gonorrhoea is usually passed from one person to another through sex. You can get gonorrhoea if you come into contact with infected semen (cum or pre-cum) or infected discharge from the vagina, throat or rectum .
Gonorrhoea is most commonly spread through:
- unprotected (without a condom) vaginal or anal sex
- oral sex (going down, giving head) without a condom or dam (a latex or plastic square that covers the anus or female genitals).
- sharing sex toys if you don’t wash them or cover them with a new condom each time they’re used.
- Gonorrhoea can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby.
In women, it’s possible for the bacteria to spread from vaginal discharge to the rectum. You don’t need to have anal sex for this to happen.
If gonorrhoea bacteria comes into contact with the eye (for example if it’s transferred from the genitals to the eye by the fingers) it can cause conjunctivitis (an eye infection). This isn’t common.
You can’t get gonorrhoea from kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or from sharing cups, plates or cutlery.
Signs and Symptoms
50% of women and 10% of men with genital gonorrhoea won’t have any obvious signs or symptoms.
Signs and symptoms can show up 1–14 days after coming into contact with gonorrhoea, many months later, or not until the infection spreads to other parts of your body.
You might notice the following:
- An unusual vaginal discharge which may be thin or watery, yellow or green.
- Pain when passing urine.
- Lower abdominal pain or tenderness.
- Rarely, bleeding between periods or heavier periods (including women who are using hormonal contraception).
- An unusual discharge from the tip of the penis – the discharge may be white, yellow or green.
- Pain when passing urine.
- Rarely, pain or tenderness in the testicles.
Other parts of the body
- Infection in the rectum doesn’t usually have any signs and symptoms but may cause anal pain, discomfort or discharge.
- Infection in the throat usually has no symptoms.
- Infection in the eyes (conjunctivitis) can cause pain, swelling, irritation and discharge.
Usually a urine sample or swab from the urethra for men and either a self taken vaginal swab or a swab taken from the cervix for women. Swabs can also be taken from other parts of the body if an infection is suspected.
Usually a short course of antibiotics.
Further Guidance: Gonorrhea