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Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection also known as the 'clap' or 'drip'.

Diagnoses of gonorrhoea went up by 15% in England between 2012 and 2013, with a large number of these cases being among men who have sex with men.

Gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics, but doctors are finding the condition is becoming resistant to some common antibiotics.

What causes gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the mucus membranes of the body. Gonorrhoea bacteria can grow in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix (opening of the womb), uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes (egg canals) in women, and in the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body) in women and men. The bacteria can also grow in the mouth, throat and anus.

How do I know if I have gonorrhoea?

Not all people infected with gonorrhoea have symptoms, so knowing when to seek treatment can be tricky. When symptoms do occur, they often appear from two to ten days after exposure, but can take up to 30 days and include the following:

Gonorrhoea symptoms in women

In some women, symptoms are so mild that they go unnoticed.

Many women with gonorrhoea discharge think they have a yeast infection and self-treat with medications purchased over-the-counter. Because vaginal discharge can be a sign of a number of different problems, it is best to always seek the advice of a doctor to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

Gonorrhoea symptoms in men

  • Greenish yellow or whitish discharge from the penis
  • Burning when urinating
  • Burning in the throat (due to oral sex)
  • Painful or swollen testicles
  • Swollen glands in the throat (due to oral sex)

In men, symptoms usually appear five to seven days after infection.

How is gonorrhoea diagnosed?

Your doctor will use a swab to take a sample of fluid from the urethra in men or from the cervix in women. The specimen will then be sent to a laboratory to be analysed. You also may be given a throat or anal swab to see if the infection is in your throat or anus. There are other tests which check a urine sample for the presence of the bacteria. You may need to wait for several days for your tests to come back from the lab.

Gonorrhoea and chlamydia, another common sexually transmitted infection, often occur together, so you may be tested and treated for both.

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