Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK. It is easily treated with antibiotics but if left untreated, it can spread to other reproductive organs.

What is it?

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. After Chlamydia, it is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK.

Gonorrhoea is easily treated but if it is not treated, it can have more serious effects. In women, Gonorrhoea can spread to the womb and fallopian tubes, causing blocked tubes, long term pain, infertility (difficulty getting pregnant) and ectopic pregnancy (when a pregnancy develops in the fallopian tube rather than in the womb). In men, untreated Gonorrhoea can cause a painful infection in the testicles.

How do I get it?

Gonorrhoea is easily passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal or oral sex. Sex toys can also pass on Gonorrhoea if they are not washed or covered by a new condom each time they are used.

Gonorrhoea infects the cervix (neck of the womb), urethra (tube where the urine comes out), rectum (back passage) and sometimes eyes or throat.

You can’t catch Gonorrhoea from hugging, kissing, swimming pools, toilets, sharing towels or sharing cups, plates or cutlery.

What symptoms could I have?

Women might notice that their vaginal discharge has increased, changed to yellow or green, or has a strong smell. They might also experience lower tummy pain, pain when passing urine or discharge or pain from their bottom.

Men might experience tingling or pain when passing urine, discharge (liquid) from the penis, pain in their testicles or discomfort/discharge from the bottom.

Less commonly, Gonorrhoea can infect the eyes. Eyes may be red or painful. If you think you may have Gonorrhoea in your eye, it is important to get checked quickly.

Gonorrhoea can rarely be more widespread, causing pain and swelling in joints, tendons and skin lesions. Again, this needs checking promptly so not to get complications.

How do you test for it?

Gonorrhoea tests can be done by taking swabs from the penis, vagina, back passage or throat, or by taking a urine sample in men. The sexual health clinic will recommend the best test for you depending on whether you have symptoms (and what they are), as well as what type of sex you have.

You can find out more about self-testing and order a postal kit here or you can use the service finder to find a testing service near you.

How do you treat it?

Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics, most commonly an injection in your buttock. You must not have sex for one week after the injection.

If you have tested positive for Gonorrhoea, anyone you have regular sex with will need to arrange a separate appointment for testing. They may also be offered treatment at this time. It is important not to have sex until any partners have been tested or have finished treatment (usually one week after their injection).