The only way to find out if you have gonorrhoea is to be tested. If you suspect that you have it or any other sexually transmitted infection (STI), it is important not to delay getting tested.
It is possible to be tested within a few days of having sex, but you may be advised to wait up to two weeks. You can be tested even if you do not have any symptoms.
Early diagnosis and treatment of gonorrhoea will reduce the risk of any complications developing, such as pelvic inflammatory disease or infection in the testicles. Complications that arise from long-term infection are much more difficult to treat.
How you are tested
There are different ways to test for gonorrhoea.
- A doctor or nurse may take a swab to collect a sample from the cervix or vagina during an internal examination.
- You may be asked to use a swab or tampon yourself to collect a sample from inside your vagina.
Cervical smear tests and routine blood tests do not check for gonorrhoea. If you are not sure if you have been tested for the presence of gonorrhoea, ask your nurse or doctor.
- You may be asked to provide a urine sample and will usually be asked not to pass urine for one to two hours beforehand.
Men and women
A doctor or nurse may take a swab to collect a sample from the entrance of the urethra (where urine is passed out).
- If you have had anal or oral sex the doctor or nurse may need to take a swab from the rectum or throat.
- If you have symptoms of conjunctivitis, such as red inflamed eyes with discharge, a sample of the discharge may be collected from your eye.
A swab looks a bit like a cotton bud but is smaller and rounded. It is wiped over parts of the body that may be infected, to pick up samples of discharge. This only takes a few seconds and is not painful, although it may be a little uncomfortable.
Some clinics may be able to carry out rapid diagnostic tests, when the doctor can view the sample through a microscope and give you your test results straight away. Otherwise, you will have to wait up to two weeks to get the results.
Who should get tested
You can only be certain you have gonorrhoea if you have a test. It is recommended you get tested if:
- you or your partner think you have symptoms of gonorrhoea
- you have had unprotected sex with a new partner
- you or your partner have had unprotected sex with other people
- you have another STI
- a sexual partner tells you that they have an STI
- during a vaginal examination your nurse or doctor tells you that the cells of your cervix are inflamed or there is discharge
- you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy
Where to get tested
There are a number of different places you can go to be tested for gonorrhoea:
- a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic
- your GP surgery
- a contraceptive and young people's clinic
- a private clinic
It is possible to buy a gonorrhoea test from a pharmacy to do yourself at home. However, these tests vary in accuracy. It is recommended that you go to your local sexual health service.
You can find details of your nearest sexual health or GUM clinic in the phone book, or by using the local health service search. You can attend these clinics at any age, even if you are under 16 (the age of consent for sex). All results are treated confidentially.
All tests are free through the NHS, but you will have to pay if you go to a private clinic. If you go to your GP practice, you may have to pay a prescription charge for any treatment.