Gonorrhoea is the second most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK behind chlamydia. It is a Bacterial infection which is commonly passed on through sexual contact with someone who has it. Most people will have symptoms, but it is possible to have gonorrhoea and not feel any different.
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Who is Affected by Gonorrhoea?
With gonorrhoea being the second most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK it is very easy for anyone to become infected with it. There are some groups of people who are at higher risk, because gonorrhoea is more common inside their groups. People who are more likely to get chlamydia include gay, bi, and other men who have sex with men, and young people.
How is it Transmitted?
Gonorrhoea can be transmitted by having unprotected sex with someone who has it. You can become infected with gonorrhoea if you come into contact with infected semen or infected discharge from the vagina, throat or anus (butt-hole).
It can also be passed on by sharing sex toys if they are not washed or covered by a new condom between partners and between holes. It can also be spread to other parts of your body, for example if you put a sex toy or penis in your vagina and then in your mouth or anus.
Using condoms with sex toys and penises can protect you from gonorrhoea. Dental dams can also help protect you if you are licking in and around the vagina and/or anus. You should use a new dental dam every time you have sex, as well as using a new dam between partners and holes.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of gonorrhoea can begin within a few days of infection, however it is common to have no symptoms of infection, especially if you have a vagina, so it is important to get tested for STIs regularly.
Common symptoms of gonorrhoea are:
- Unusual discharge from the vagina (thin or watery, and with a yellow or green colour) or from the tip of the penis (white, yellow or green in colour)
- Pain or burning sensation when peeing
- Swollen or inflamed foreskin (the skin that goes over the end of your penis)
Rarer symptoms can involve pain in the testes, or in the lower stomach area, and also heavier periods and bleeding after sex.
If you get an infection of gonorrhoea in the anus or eye, the symptoms are usually pain, swelling and discomfort, though it can also cause conjunctivitis in the eye (make them feel sticky or burn). Gonorrhoea in the throat typically has no symptoms.
Testing and Treatment
It is possible to get tested for gonorrhoea at a Sexual Health (GUM) clinic or if you identify as a gay, bi or any other man who has sex with men, then you can get tested at LGBT Foundation through our full sexual health screening clinic in partnership with The Northern. For more information on when and where to get tested, visit lgbt.foundation/testing.
Gonorrhoea only takes between a few days and week from infection to show in tests, so if you think you have been exposed to gonorrhoea you should wait a week from when you had sex, then get tested. Other STIs do take longer to show in tests, so if you are unsure it may be worth talking about it with a nurse or doctor.
If you do get a positive result, gonorrhoea is really easy to treat and cure. In most cases it will involve an injection of antibiotics in the buttocks(bum) or lower thigh, along with a single antibiotic tablet. Sometimes the nurse or doctor will be able to give you two tablets rather than an injection, so it is worth asking if you are afraid of needles.
If you have had sex with someone who then finds out they have gonorrhoea, you should go to a GUM clinic, as they will test you and also begin treatment on the same day.
Any symptoms you have should go within a few days of treatment, but the doctor or nurse will usually ask you to attend a follow-up appointment so they can check that you no longer have gonorrhoea.
In this time, it is best if you don’t have sex, especially sex with any partners who are on treatment for gonorrhoea also, as you could re-infect each other and mean you will need treating again.
If you identify as a gay, bi or any other man who has sex with men, then you can get tested at LGBT Foundation through our full sexual health screening clinic in partnership with The Northern. For more information on when and where to get tested, visit lgbt.foundation/testing