February 27, 2023

What is Gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria. Infection usually occurs in the genitals but can also be found in the throat, bottom or eyes.  You can catch gonorrhoea by having unprotected vaginal or anal sex, oral sex and by sharing sex toys. It is not caught by kissing. You or your partner could have picked up the infection from a previous partner without knowing it. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth.

What are the Symptoms?

Some people, (particularly people with vaginas) with gonorrhoea, do not have any symptoms. This means that infection can often go untreated for some time.

If you do notice the symptoms of gonorrhoea, they will usually show up between 1 to 14 days after coming into contact with the infection. In most cases, it is easier for people with penises to recognise gonorrhoea than people with vaginas and is usually seen within a week. People with penises with gonorrhoea may notice lots of green or yellow fluid coming out of the penis. This is sometimes accompanied by pain or a burning sensation when peeing, or a rash on the head of the penis. There may also be some discomfort and swelling of the testicles. About 3 in 4 people with vaginas' do not have any obvious symptoms. Symptoms may take slightly longer to appear than for penises. These tend to be increased discharge from the vagina, pain in the abdomen, or pain when peeing. Sometimes vagina owners may experience bleeding in between periods, after sex, or have irregular or heavy periods. Gonorrhoea can also infect other areas, for example, the throat or bottom. Infections in these areas are less likely to be noticed.


If you or your partner are worried that you may have gonorrhea, see a doctor or nurse straight away. Even if you don't have any symptoms, you may wish to be tested. You may have gonorrhea even if your partner has tested negative --- it is always a good idea to get a regular check-up for sexually transmitted infections whenever you change your sexual partner.

You should always have an STI check two to three weeks after you've had a new sexual partner.

Getting tested is easy! Usually, the test will involve a swab, this is quick, easy, and doesn't hurt. So, don't be lazy. Sometimes you will be asked to give a urine sample. Sometimes you will be able to get the results straight away other times it may take anywhere from a couple of days to a week or two. This will depend on where you get the test done.  Whenever you get tested opt for a full sexual health screening.

What if you test positive?

Early treatment of gonorrhea is very simple and usually involves being given a dose of antibiotics. You may be advised to have another test to check that gonorrhoea has gone completely. It is vital that you avoid penetrative and oral sex until you and your partner have finished your treatment.  If you test positive you must speak to your sexual partner or partners. This is important so that they too can get tested. If left untreated an infection can cause serious illness.

What if gonorrhea is not treated?

Gonorrhoea remains untreated, there is a risk of passing the infection on to others. You are also at risk of serious complications.

For penis owners, untreated gonorrhoea may lead to infection of the testicles, causing pain and swelling and, in some cases, infertility.

Some vaginal owners, who have untreated gonorrhoea may develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and in some serious cases, the infection can result in ectopic pregnancy and infertility. Infection while pregnant can result in the premature birth of the baby.

Safe Sex

The best way to prevent all sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV, is to practice safer sex. This means using a condom for vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

Remember, you do not have to have lots of sexual partners to get an STI. However, you are more likely to get an STI if you have had a recent change in partners or if you've had multiple partners in the last couple of months.

Always practice safe sex, this includes oral sex! Use a condom, there's no excuse not to. If you find them uncomfortable, then spend some time trying different brands, shapes, and sizes. In addition, if you are participating in group sex, use a different condom for each person/hole. And remember, safety is sexy!

Refer to our clinic search to find your closest Sexual health clinic.


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