Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is one of the most prevalent in the UK. It is most commonly spread during unprotected sexual activity, which includes oral and anal sex as well as vaginal sex. Though it is less common, it is also possible for gonorrhoea to spread from a mother to her child during labour.
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Although not to the extent of chlamydia, gonorrhoea can be asymptomatic. Half of women and 10% of men infected with gonorrhoea don't know they have it. People who do develop gonorrhoea symptoms usually do so around ten days after being infected, but some people may only experience symptoms months later or once complications have started.
The most commonly experienced symptoms of gonorrhoea in men and women are:
|Gonorrhoea symptoms in women|
|An increased or unusual discharge from the vagina|
|Pain when urinating|
|Pain in the lower abdomen (rare)|
|Vaginal bleeding after sex|
|Bleeding between periods|
|Unusually heavy periods|
|Gonorrhoea symptoms in men|
|Unusual penile discharge|
|Pain when urinating|
|Pain and swelling in the testicles|
Gonorrhoea can also affect the rectum and may cause symptoms such as bleeding from the anal area or itching. In very rare cases gonorrhoea may affect the throat, but in these cases there are usually no gonorrhoea symptoms. If the infection affects the eye, it can cause symptoms like conjunctivitis.
Gonorrhoea can cause serious health and fertility problems if it is left untreated for too long.
Although not everyone with gonorrhoea will develop these complications, it is vital to get treatment to prevent the infection spreading to someone else.
In around one in ten cases, gonorrhoea can spread to the womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause damage to the fallopian tubes, which can cause you to become infertile. It can also increase the chances of you having an ectopic pregnancy.
Gonorrhoea can spread to the testicles and prostate gland in men and can also affect fertility in this way, as it can block the tube that carries sperm from the testes.
In very rare cases the infection can enter the bloodstream and infect the heart, brain, joints and spine.
Gonorrhoea can effectively be treated with either an antibiotic injection which is recommended as the best treatment for the infection, or antibiotic tablets. It's also easy to find out whether you have it, even if you aren't displaying any gonorrhoea symptoms, as there are tests that can be performed at home. All you need to do is collect a sample and post it back to the test laboratory, where it will be processed and the results sent back to you as soon as they are available, with instructions. Alternatively you can visit your nearest sexual health clinic or your GP and request to be tested.