Sexually Transmitted Infections.
What is Gonorrhoea?
Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial STI in the UK after chlamydia. It is found most frequently in young people under the age of 25 years and in men who have sex with men. You can get it through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex, by sharing sex toys or occasionally from genitals to fingers to eyes. Infection usually occurs in the genitals but can also occur in the throat, rectum (back passage) or eyes.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are different for men and women. Approximately half of women will not get any symptoms but more than 90% of men will develop symptoms.
- Yellow/white/green discharge from the penis
- Burning feeling when passing urine (peeing)
- Pain and swelling of the testicles
Most women do not have symptoms but could have:
- Unusual discharge from the vagina
- Burning feeling when passing urine (peeing)
- Unusual bleeding.
- Lower abdominal pain particularly during sex
Gonorrhoea can also affect other parts of the body, for example the throat, back passage or eyes.
- Infection in the rectum (back passage) doesn't usually have any signs or symptoms but may cause anal pain or discharge.
- Infection in the throat usually has no symptoms.
- Infection in the eyes (conjunctivitis) can cause pain, swelling, irritation and discharge.
What is Gonorrhoea caused by?
Bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
How do you get tested for gonorrhoea?
By a urine test in men and a swab from the vagina in women.
Men should not have passed urine for at least 1 hour before having the test.
Additional swabs are usually taken from the tip of the penis in men and from the cervix in women if symptoms are present or if gonorrhoea has been found on the initial test. Sometimes, it may also be necessary to take swabs from the throat and rectum (back passage).
You should also be offered routine tests for other STI's including chlamydia, HIV and syphilis. In D&G, the test for gonorrhoea will also check for chlamydia - it's a single test that checks for both infections.
How is it treated?
By a single injection of an antibiotic which can be given at a Sexual Health clinic.Your partner also needs to be tested (and treated if necessary).
It is extremely important that you have a follow up test about 2 to 3 weeks after you have been treated to ensure that the infection has gone. This is called a test of cure. You must not have any sexual contact until you know that the test of cure has shown that the infection is away.
What can happen if it’s not treated?
It is important to treat gonorrhoea as soon as possible to prevent serious complications.
In women, gonorrhoea can spread to other reproductive organs causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In some serious cases this can lead to infertility and ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that develops outside the womb).
In men, gonorrhoea can lead to a painful infection in the testicles (epididymo-orchitis) which may possibly cause reduced fertility.
Less commonly, in both men and women gonorrhoea can spread to the blood (septicaemia) or joints and cause serious infection.
Gonorrhoea in pregnancy
Infection while pregnant can result in the premature birth of the baby, or it can be passed to the baby during birth causing conjunctivitis (infection in the eyes). Gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics when you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
It is possible to catch gonorrhoea again so it is important that your partner is tested (and treated if necessary) and that you practise safer sex with new partners.
You cannot tell by looking at someone if they have a sexually transmitted
infection, so if you are having sex (oral, anal or vaginal) the only way
to make sure you are not putting yourself at risk is to practise safer
- Always using condoms or femidoms (female condom inserted within the vagina) for vaginal sex.
- Always using condoms with water based lube for anal sex. Do not use condoms with spermicide if you are having anal sex.
- Always using flavoured condoms or dental dams (a latex shield that covers the mouth) when having oral sex.
- Trying non-penetrative sex like massage or mutual masturbation.
- Not sharing sex toys. If you do share sex toys, wash them or cover them with a new condom between each person who uses them.
Condoms / Femidoms also protect you from other STIs including HIV. Always check the packaging for the British Standard kitemark or European product mark as well as the date of expiry.
Free condoms are available throughout Dumfries & Galloway. See the Clinic List.
Testing and treatment is available from:
If you wish to be seen or are seeking sexual health advice:
Mon - Fri 9.00am - 4.00pm
- General Practitioners (your GP can test you for gonorrhoea but treatment will be given by Sexual Health D and G).
Tel: 0345 702 3687 for other appointments