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Gonorrhoea

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 left untreated, it can have more serious effects. In women, the gonorrhoea can spread to the womb and fallopian tubes, causing blocked tubes, long term pain, infertility 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 and prostate gland.

How do I catch it?

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

The bacteria infect the cells lining the cervix (neck of the womb), urethra (tube where the urine comes out), rectum (back passage) and sometimes even the 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 changed to yellow or green, increased or has a strong smell. They might also experience lower stomach pain, pain when passing urine or itching or discharge from the anus (bum).

Men might experience tingling or pain when passing urine, discharge or discomfort in the anus (bum), a yellow or white discharge from the penis or inflammation of the testicles.

Gonorrhoea in the eyes can cause redness and irritation. It can also cause inflammation of the joints and tendons and skin lesions, but this is less common. In very rare cases it can affect the brain and heart.

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 where you have sex.

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 a combination of an injection and some tablets.

If you are treated for gonorrhoea, it is really important that your partner is also treated before you have sex again to prevent reinfection.

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