Gonorrhoea is a common genital tract infection that is mainly passed between sexually active adults who have unprotected sexual intercourse. It’s easily treatable but, because the infection tends to be asymptomatic, many people do not seek treatment. If gonorrhoea isn’t treated efficiently, it can be spread to more people and can eventually cause serious reproductive health problems in an infected person.
How common is it?
Gonorrhoea is almost just as widespread as chlamydia and, similarly, tends to be more prevalent in people in their late teens or early 20s. Every year, around 16,000 to 17,000 new cases are reported, but it’s possible that the number has the potential to be much higher, as many people might have the infection without being aware of it.
Gonorrhoea typically doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms, which is why people don’t get treatment. This characteristic could lead to thinking that it’s safe to have unprotected sex, when it really isn’t.
How do you get it?
Gonorrhoea spreads incredibly easily during unprotected sex among partners; this doesn’t solely include vaginal sex, but also anal, oral sex and sharing sex toys. A mother can also pass the infection to her new-born baby during the birthing process.
The Neisseria gonorrhoea bacteria can affect the cells in the urethra, cervix, throat or eyes, and sometimes the infection can spread from one area to the other. For example, if a woman’s rectum comes in contact with infected vaginal fluid, it can result in an infection in the rectum as well.
How is it diagnosed?
Symptoms rarely appear in those with the infection; if they are present, it’s often easy to assume that they are the result of another type of infection, which means that simply looking out for symptoms or identifying symptoms does not tell you whether or not you have an infection. The only way to conclusively identify whether you have the infection or not, is to get do a full test.
If you are male and you are experiencing or have experienced the following symptoms, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor: unusual green, white or yellow discharge from the penis; pain when urinating; swollen foreskin; and painful or tender testicles.
Symptoms experienced by women with gonorrhoea may include: a green, yellow or white vaginal discharge; pain when urinating; bleeding after sex or between periods; and tenderness in the lower abdomen.
Both sexes may experience symptoms that affect the eyes, rectum or throat.
A gonorrhoea test is straightforward and usually not uncomfortable. All that a laboratory needs is a swab sample of the affected area or a urine sample to provide a diagnosis. This sample can be collected by a nurse or doctor at your local GUM clinic, or you could choose to collect a sample yourself and send it off to a laboratory for analysis, a service which is performed by websites such as The STI Clinic
The STI Clinic service allows you to place an order for a lab test online, wait for the test to arrive in the post and collect a sample in the comfort of your home. Once taken, return the test to their laboratory where it will be analysed and a diagnoses will be provided as soon as possible.
Can gonorrhoea be cured?
Gonorrhoea is a curable infection, but due to the emergence of more resistant symptoms, treatment will usually involve two types of antibiotics to deal with the infection more effectively. Two treatments that are likely to be used together to treat infection are Cefixime and Azithromycin, which are both a single day treatments, so prolonged discomfort is less likely.