Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). A gonorrhoea infection is transmitted through fluids exchanged when sexually active, and affects both males and females. An infection can be dangerous, so in this article we'll explain how to recognise symptoms of gonorrhoea.
While gonorrhoea can't survive outside the body for long, it spreads through sexual contact easily. The most common modes of transmission are anal sex, oral sex and vaginal sex. The infection is often more dangerous for females than for males. It can also be passed on to unborn children.
If you are sexually active it's recommended that you reduce your number of sex partners and wear protection to reduce the risk of infection.
Latex condoms and dental dams are excellent at preventing the transmission of the infection and other sexually transmitted infections.
Although a gonorrhoea infection can have no symptoms, there are usually a few signs that someone might have the disease and needs to get tested. The symptoms differ depending on whether the person has a male sex organ or a vagina.
One of the most common signs of gonorrhoea is a white, yellow, or green pus-like discharge from the penis.
There might also be a burning sensation in the penis when urinating. Additionally, the foreskin may be painful or the testicles may be swollen - but this is rare.
Another sign of gonorrhoea in people who have penises is an infection in the eyes, throat, or rectum. Gonorrhoea in the rectum causes pain and a pus-like discharge; in the eyes, it causes irritation, swelling, and pain, but it has no symptoms in the throat. These symptoms often appear together.
Gonorrhoea symptoms are usually milder in people who have vaginas than in people who don't - in about half of all cases, there will be no symptoms at all. Unfortunately, the mild symptoms of gonorrhoea in people with vaginas can be easily mistaken for a bladder infection.
Someone with gonorrhoea might experience unusual discharge from the vagina and pain while urinating. However, there are some additional symptoms to look out for, such as unusual bleeding between periods and pain during sex.
Although gonorrhoea symptoms in women can be mistaken for other body conditions, it's worth getting tested - especially if you discover some vaginal discharge or pain while peeing.
Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that is treated with antibiotics. Once treated, the symptoms of this sexually transmitted infection start to lift quickly.
Some symptoms disappear after only a few days, while others will be eliminated in weeks. Your medical professional will administer the antibiotic treatment.
The first signs of gonorrhoea, such as unusual discharge from the penis or vagina, discomfort when urinating, and pain in the rectum, should disappear in two to three days after the antibiotics are administered.
There should also be an improvement to any adverse bleeding by the time of your next period.
Some people also experience pelvic discomfort and pain in the testicles, although these symptoms are somewhat rarer.
Pelvic discomfort can be felt in the background or during sex, and testicular pain can range from mild to chronic. Once treated, the symptoms should lift rapidly but might take 2 weeks to cure.
Once treated, you should refrain from having sex for seven days. You should also wait at least seven days after your symptoms clear up before engaging in sexual activity.
If you don't abstain for this duration, there is a risk of spreading the disease. If you experience any further discomfort, go back to your medical professional.
When you suspect you have gonorrhoea symptoms, it's time to undergo a gonorrhoea test either at home or with a medical professional.
These tests are non-invasive and straightforward; gonorrhoea testing is much the same as testing for chlamydia; however, there are some differences if you're a man or a woman.
If you're a person with a penis, you will need to supply a sample from the urethra opening; you may also need to provide a sample from other areas of potential infection, such as the rectum or the mouth.
Males might also have to submit a urine test. Testing is usually done in a clinic, but home testing kits are also available.
The method is similar for people with vaginas. A sample is taken from the vagina or the cervix. A sample may also be required from the urethra - the tube that takes urine out of the body.
A sample may also be taken from the rectum, the mouth, or the throat.
The most reliable way to test for gonorrhoea is to visit your doctor's office for advice and undergo a non-invasive test. This gives you and your doctor a clear idea as to the extent of the issue and the treatment required.
However, a home testing kit is also easy to use and helps you to make progressive decisions.
When left untreated, gonorrhoea can cause serious health problems and fertility issues for both men and women.
In people with vaginas, an untreated infection can cause a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This leads to infertility, ectopic pregnancies, and can be life-threatening.
In people with penises, untreated gonorrhoea leads to a problem called epididymitis, a condition that affects the testicles causing scrotal pain, fever, swelling, and ultimately infertility.
Untreated gonorrhoea can also spread to other parts of the body in both men and women, affecting tendons and joints.
Following a gonorrhoea test in the clinic, your medical practitioner will put you on a course of antibiotics. This is a common treatment for bacterial infections. Normally, adults with gonorrhoea will be treated with an antibiotic called ceftriaxone, administered as an injection.
Although ceftriaxone is the most common antibiotic treatment for gonorrhoea, it is not the only one.
Different strains of the disease emerge, so a different antibiotic treatment needs to be available. These include injectable gentamicin and oral azithromycin. Sex partners and babies are also treated with these.
Women are more at risk of complications resulting from gonorrhoea than men, mainly due to a more complex reproductive system. Men can experience complications such as epididymitis if the condition goes untreated for a long time, but women can have issues with reproductive organs and pregnancy.
In women and people with vaginas, untreated gonorrhoea bacteria can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is a condition that affects the female genital tract, including the womb, the cervix, the fallopian tubes, and the ovaries.
PID causes scarring to the fallopian tubes and stops eggs from going to the womb.
When eggs don't make it to the womb, it doesn't mean they stop growing. However, when an egg starts to grow inside a fallopian tube, it is called an ectopic pregnancy, and it can be fatal.
An ectopic pregnancy is a serious event and is normally treated in the hospital with medication or key-hole surgery.
A further complication for both men and women is infertility. In women, infertility is mainly caused by pelvic inflammation disease. The disease spreads to the uterus and fallopian tubes, making pregnancy difficult and passing the infection on to babies.
In men, the disease affects the sperm duct in the testicles, leading to infertility.
Neisseria Gonorrhoeae is a bacteria disease that is transmitted from one individual to another through sexual activity. This means unprotected vaginal sex, anal or oral sex and sharing vibrators and sex toys. You can avoid catching the disease by practising safe sex and always washing your sex toys.
Those who are active sexually are always at risk of catching gonorrhoea, especially if they have multiple partners and don't practice safe sex. However, you cannot catch the disease through casual contact. For example, you can't catch it from kissing and exchanging saliva, holding hands, or toilet seats.
The answer depends on the nature of your sexual activity - are you having unprotected vaginal or anal sex, and do you have multiple partners? The general advice to anyone who is active sexually is to get tested for STI bacterium every year. This ensures any latent diseases can be observed and treated.
It's advisable to get tested for STI bacterium like gonorrhoea and receive treatment before starting a sexual relationship with a new sexual partner. However, even if you are in a long-term monogamous relationship, you can still catch gonorrhoea - the disease might be latent in your system, so test often.
As with all sexually transmitted diseases, it's important to inform your current sex partner as well as previous partners about your diagnosis. For example, Neisseria gonorrhoeae is extremely easy to pass on through sexual contact.
It can be easily treated but is very dangerous if a sexual partner doesn't know they have it.
Statistically, females have a higher chance of catching the infection from a male sex partner than a man does of catching it from a female sex partner.
There is between a 60% and 90% chance of women catching Neisseria gonorrhoea, but that's only 20% for males. Sex with men appears to be riskier.
There are plenty of ways you can protect yourself from gonorrhoea bacteria and still enjoy sexual contact with one sex partner or multiple partners.
The first thing you need is infection protection, like a condom or a dental dam for oral sex. These prevent the fluids from transmitting any sexually transmitted infections.
There are other ways you can protect your sexual health from this infection. Reduce the number of sexual partners you have and get tested regularly for STIs.
It's recommended that you test for STIs once a year, but home testing kits are available, meaning you don't always have to go to the clinic. Education is also useful.