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What is gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) often known as the ‘clap’ it is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria Gonorrhoeae. The bacterium grows and multiplies quickly in moist, warm areas of the body. Gonorrhoea can infect areas of the body such as the cervix, urethra, anus, rectum or throat. In women the cervix is the most common site of infection.

The name gonorrhoea means ‘flow of seed’.

What causes gonorrhoea and how can I avoid catching it?

Gonorrhoea is passed on through vaginal, anal and oral sex, though sometimes it only takes physical contact to spread. Gonorrhoea can be passed on by sharing sex toys that have not been washed. Gonorrhoea can also be passed to a newborn from an infected mother during delivery, causing eye infections in the baby, which untreated, could lead to blindness.

Like most sexually transmitted diseases, gonorrhoea can be avoided by a consistent and correct use of male and female condoms during sexual activity.

What are the signs or symptoms of gonorrhoea?

The early symptoms of gonorrhoea are often mild, and many women who are infected will have no symptoms. The symptoms of infection may show up at anytime between 1 and 14 days after exposure. Symptoms to look out for include:

In women:

  • Pain or burning sensation on urinating.
  • A change in vaginal discharge. This may be more yellow or bloody and can have a strong smell.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Bleeding between periods.
  • Irritation or discharge from the anus.

In men the symptoms are more noticeable and include:

  • Discharge from the penis that might be yellow or green in colour.
  • Inflammation or dull pain in the testes.
  • Burning sensation during urinating.
  • Irritation or discharge from the anus.

Both men and women who have unprotected anal or oral sex can develop the infection in the rectum which can cause pain and discomfort. It can also be found in the eyes, which might lead to conjunctivitis or in the throat causing a throat infection. If you have any symptoms that you are worried about, you should visit your doctor. Or if you find that embarrassing, your local G.U.M. clinic, who are experienced in dealing with this type of infection and you don’t even have to give your name if you don’t want to.

How is gonorrhoea diagnosed?

The only way you will know if you have gonorrhoea is to be tested. If you suspect you might have gonorrhoea or another STD then you should visit your doctor or clinic as soon as possible. Your doctor will usually begin by examining your genital area and he/she will take a sample from the area which might be infected. The sample will then be analysed under a microscope to check for any infection. The doctor will probably ask you to give a urine sample as well.

What treatment is available for gonorrhoea?

The treatment of gonorrhoea is usually with the antibiotic, amoxicillin. If you have gonorrhoea it is very important that your partner is also tested and treated even if they have no symptoms, otherwise you may find it will keep reoccurring.

A repeat test will usually be carried out after treatment to ensure the infection has gone.

A new strain of gonorrhoea called “super gonorrhoea” was found in Leeds and is on the rise, this bug is resistant to one of the antibiotics currently used to treat the infection.

How will gonorrhoea affect me in the future?

The most common complication of untreated gonorrhoea in women is infection with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (P.I.D.). This is a result of the disease spreading to the uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes. P.I.D. is a serious infection of the female reproductive organs, which can cause a woman to become infertile or have an ectopic pregnancy.

In men the main complication of untreated gonorrhoea is inflammation of the testes, which could lead to infertility problems.

Rarely, untreated gonorrhoea can spread to the bloodstream and infect the joints. Also if you are pregnant and you have gonorrhoea you could pass the infection on to your baby when it is born.