Gonnorhoea is a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoea. It was previously known as ‘the clap’. It can easily pass from one person to another through vaginal, oral, and anal sex.
It is possible to have gonorrhoea without knowing it as it does not always cause symptoms or may only cause mild symptoms. Most people will have at least one STI in their lifetime. Although gonorrhoea can be cured with antibiotics, when left untreated, it can pose serious health risks.
How Do You Get Gonnorhoea?
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that is usually spread through sex or contact with infected genital fluids (semen or vaginal fluid). You can get gonorrhoea by:
- Engaging in oral, anal, or vaginal sex - ejaculation does not need to happen for gonorrhoea to be transmitted.
- Sharing sex toys
- Some research suggests that oral gonorrhoea may also be transmitted through kissing with the tongue (French kissing)
- Gonorrhea can be transmitted from mother to baby during delivery.
What Are The Symptoms Of Gonnorhoea?
Gonorrhea and chlamydia both have similar symptoms including unusual discharge from the vagina or penis or painful urination. Both men and women with gonorrhoea often do not notice any symptoms. When noticed, symptoms may include:
- Painful or more frequent urination
- Unusual discharge (yellow, white, beige, or greenish) from the vagina, penis or anus
- Pain in the abdomen
- Itching and soreness in your anus
- Rectal bleeding or discharge
- Pain when having bowel movements
- Itching and soreness in your anus
- Oral gonorrhoea symptoms include a persistent sore throat, inflammation and redness in your throat and swelling in the lymph nodes in your neck.
- Men may develop discolouration and swelling at the penis opening, testicular swelling or pain.
- Women may have symptoms similar to vaginal yeast or experience bleeding after sex and bleeding between periods.
What Are The Risks?
Although gonorrhoea does not usually cause any symptoms it can be serious if it is not treated early on. As with chlamydia, if left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of your body and lead to long-term health problems, especially in women. These health problems include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - an infection of the fallopian tubes, uterus, and cervix.
- It can cause ectopic pregnancy and infertility due to the blocking and scarring of the fallopian tubes.
- In some men, gonorrhoea can cause epididymitis (inflammation of the testicles). This occurs if gonorrhoea spreads to the testicles and epididymis (tubes that carry sperm from the testicles), causing them to become painful and swollen.
- In men, gonorrhoea can cause scarring of the urethra or a painful abscess inside the penis, which can affect fertility.
- Rarely, an untreated infection can also spread to your bloodstream, where it can cause arthritis or heart valve damage.
- Gonorrhea can be passed on to a newborn infant during delivery.
How Is Gonorrhoea Diagnosed?
To test for gonorrhoea, your healthcare practitioner will collect a sample of cells by either a urine test or a swab of the affected area. A swab of your throat, urethra, vagina or rectum can collect bacteria that can be identified in a lab. For women, home test kits are often available for gonorrhoea, which include vaginal swabs for self-testing that are sent to a specified lab for testing.
Your healthcare professional may recommend tests for other sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia which often accompanies gonorrhea. Testing for HIV is also advised for anyone diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection.
If you suspect that you may have contracted gonorrhoea, you should avoid sexual activity and make an appointment to get tested. If you test positive, you should let your partner know they should get tested for gonorrhoea right away.
How Is Gonorrhoea Treated?
Gonnorhoea can normally be cured with a short course of antibiotics. This is often in the form of a single antibiotic injection (injected in your bottom) but might include an additional 7-day antibiotic course. You cannot treat gonorrhoea with over-the-counter or home remedies. Although medication will stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent damage done by the disease (e.g. damage done by pelvic inflammatory disease).
If you think you might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or have any symptoms of gonorrhoea, you should visit your local GP or sexual health clinic. To avoid reinfection, your sexual partner or partners from the last 60 days also need to be screened and treated, even if they have no symptoms.
It is important to take all the medication prescribed. If your symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, you should return to your healthcare provider to be reevaluated. It is usually recommended that you attend a follow-up appointment 1-2 weeks after treatment so that another test can be done to see if you are clear of infection. You should abstain from sex until your healthcare provider has confirmed that you are clear of any infection to prevent spreading the infection to your partner.
Babies born to mothers with gonorrhoea who develop the infection can be treated with antibiotics.
How To Avoid Getting Gonnorhoea
Anyone who is sexually active should adopt safer sex practices to prevent infection. This includes having an open discussion with any sex partners, having regular tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and using a condom for protection. These practices can help reduce the risk of getting gonorrhoea or any other STI.