Gonorrhea: Symptoms, Testing and Treatment

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus. It used to be known as "the clap". The bacteria are mainly found in discharge from the penis and in vaginal fluid. Gonorrhoea is easily passed between people through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex or through sharing vibrators or other sex toys that have not been washed or covered with a new condom each time they're used.

Symptoms of gonorrhoea

Typical symptoms of gonorrhoea include a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when urinating and, in women, bleeding between periods. However, around 1 in 10 infected men and almost half of infected women do not experience any symptoms.

Getting tested

  • If you have any of the symptoms of gonorrhoea, or you're worried you may have an STI, you should visit your local sexual health clinic for a sexual health test.
  • Gonorrhoea can be easily diagnosed by testing a sample of discharge picked up using a swab. In men, testing a sample of urine can also diagnose the condition.

It's important to get tested as soon as possible because gonorrhoea can lead to more serious long-term health problems if it's not treated, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women or infertility.

Treating gonorrhoea

  • Gonorrhoea is usually treated with a single antibiotic injection and a single antibiotic tablet. With effective treatment, most of your symptoms should improve within a few days.

  • It's usually recommended you attend a follow-up appointment a week or two after treatment so another test can be carried out to see if you're clear of infection.

  • You should avoid having sex until you've been told you no longer have the infection.

  • Previous successful treatment for gonorrhoea does not make you immune to catching it again.