Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that can be painful and, if not treated effectively, can cause serious health problems and complications. It is caused by a specific type of bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae and the infection is commonly passed on through sexual contact.
What is Neisseria Gonorrhoeae?
The type of bacteria that causes the STI, gonorrhoea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae are essentially tiny living cells that can exist in various places in the body, such as the womb, cervix, throat, urethra, rectum and even the eyes.
How is gonorrhoea spread?
The spread of this bacteria from person-to-person usually happens through sexual contact, which can be via unprotected vaginal, anal sex or oral sex, or sharing sex toys. Gonorrhoea can also be passed from a pregnant mother to her baby.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae cannot be transferred by kissing, hugging, sharing baths, swimming pools, toilet seats, sharing towels or sharing cups, plates, bottles or cutlery.
Gonorrhoea can be contracted more than once, so if you have been infected in the past and been successfully treated, you can still get gonorrhoea again.
Gonorrhoea symptoms in females
Around half of women with gonorrhoea will have no obvious signs or symptoms that they have the infection. However, for those who do experience symptoms, you may experience one or more of:
- An unusual discharge from the vagina, which might be watery, thin, yellow or green in colour
- Pain when passing urine
- Tenderness or pain in your lower abdomen
- Unusual (for you) bleeding between periods or having heavier periods than normal
- Discomfort, discharge or pain in the anus
An eye infection (conjunctivitis) with pain, irritation, swelling or discharge can also sometimes indicate that gonorrhoea has infected the eyes.
Gonorrhoea symptoms in males
Around one in 10 men infected with gonorrhoea won’t experience any obvious symptoms or signs, but the other nine out of 10 men may notice one of more or the below:
- An unusual discharge from the penis, which may be white, yellow or green in colour
- Pain when passing urine
- Tenderness or pain in the testicles
- Anal discomfort, pain or discharge
As with women, conjunctivitis may also indicate that Neisseria gonorrhoeae has infected the eyes.
How do I Know if I have gonorrhoea?
As the early symptoms and signs of gonorrhoea are not always obvious, if you think that there is a chance you could have this STI, you should take a test.
You can visit a sexual health clinic or your GP for a test, but you can also get a gonorrhoea home testing kit that can tell you if you have the infection; and, when another test is taken 1-3 weeks after treatment, it can also show if the treatment has been successful. However, home testing kits cannot test for gonorrhoea in the throat or anus, so if you think that you have infections in these parts of the body, you will need to visit a clinic or your GP.
If you take a home test from a kit, you will need to send off your samples to a lab for testing. Results are usually available within 2-3 days by telephone. Men and women have to provide different types of samples for the home test, but full instructions are provided.
You should take a gonorrhoea test if:
- You or your sexual partner has experienced any of the symptoms mentioned above
- Your or your sexual partner has recently had unprotected sex with another partner
- You are told by a sexual partner that they have or may have an STI
- You have been diagnosed with any other STIs recently
How can gonorrhoea be treated?
If you have a test that comes back positive for gonorrhoea, the infection can usually be treated very quickly and effectively, especially if caught in the early stages. The right combination of treatment is 95% effective when taken correctly.
The first line treatment for gonorrhoea is usually a combination of a ceftriaxone injection and azithromycin tablets. It’s also possible for a combination of tablets alone to be used to successfully treat gonorrhoea.
What type of medicine can be used to treat gonorrhoea?
There are two different types of antibiotic needed to treat gonorrhoea. These need to be taken on the same day to offer the most effective treatment.
With a gonorrhoea treatment pack from Instant eCare, you will receive six tablets that need to be taken as a single dose to treat the infection.
What happens after gonorrhoea treatment?
Once you have taken the correct treatment for gonorrhoea, you should notice an improvement in your symptoms within 2-3 days, although some symptoms may take several weeks to go away, such as bleeding between periods or pain in the pelvis or testicles.
If your symptoms do not improve as expected within these timescales, then it is recommended that you visit a health professional as further investigation may be required.
What happens if gonorrhoea isn’t treated?
If you don’t treat gonorrhoea, some people experience complications as the infection spreads to other parts of the body over time.
In both men and women, untreated gonorrhoea can cause reduced fertility. It is rare, but gonorrhoea can also cause pain or inflammation of the joints and tendons, or skin lesions, which can have serious health implications.
In women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to long-term pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy (when a pregnancy develops outside the womb), blocked fallopian tubes and infertility. In men, it can cause a painful infection of the testicles.