What is Gonorrhoea ?
Gonorrhoea is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) and is caused by a bacteria called neisseria gonorrheoae or gonococcus. It is passed from person to person through sexual activity including intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, and intimate physical contact.
Gonorrhoea is the second most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK and the number of cases is rising every year. Young men aged 20-24 years and women between the ages of 16 and 19 are most commonly affected.
Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that is passed on during sexual contact or from mother to baby during birth. The bacteria usually live inside the cells of the cervix (entrance to the womb), it can be contracted by both men and women and may affect the vagina or penis, the anus, rectum, throat and eyes.
Anyone who is sexually active can contract gonorrhoea, especially those who change partners frequently or do not use a barrier method of contraception, such as a condom, when having sexual intercourse. Gonorrhoea cannot be transmitted through casual contact such as kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels or swimming pools, from toilet seats or from sharing cups, plates or cutlery.
Women with gonorrhoea can also pass the infection onto their baby during birth. This can result in an infection of the baby’s eyes that can cause lasting complications if left untreated.
Symptoms of Gonorrhoea
Up to half of all women who contract gonorrhoea do not experience any symptoms.
However, those who do may notice:
- An unusual vaginal discharge which may be thin or watery, or yellow or green.
- Lower abdominal pain or tenderness
- Pain when passing urine.
- Irritation or discharge from the anus.
Around 90% of men who contract gonorrhoea experience symptoms such as:
- A white, yellow or green-coloured discharge from the tip of the penis
- Pain or tenderness caused by inflammation of the testicles or prostate gland
- Pain or burning sensation when peeing
- Irritation or discharge from the anus
Symptoms in both men and women usually appear between one and fourteen days after infection.
Testing for Gonorrhoea
The doctor will take a swab to collect a sample of cells. A swab looks like a cotton bud, but smaller, soft and rounded, the swab is wiped over the parts of the
body that could be infected and easily picks up samples of discharge and cells. It only takes a few seconds and is not usually painful, though it may be uncomfortable for a moment.
Swabs may be used to pick up cells from the cervix (neck of the womb), during an internal examination in women, the urethra ( the tube where urine comes out), the rectum ( back passage),
and the throat. Samples are sent to the laboratory to be tested. The doctor may also carry out rapid diagnostic tests, where the results will be available in minutes.
- Gonococcal Microscopy results: During consultation
- Gonococcal Cultures result: 2-3 days
- Test results are available by telephone or email.
Treatment of Gonorrhoea
Early treatment of gonorrhoea is simple and usually involves having a single dose of antibiotics. There are several different antibiotics that can be used. If complications have occurred other treatment may also be needed. If there is a high chance of you having the infection, treatment may be given before your results are available. It is important to tell the doctor if you are taking oral contraceptives, or think you might be pregnant or breastfeeding. This will influence the type of antibiotic used. It is important to receive treatment for gonorrhoea as quickly as possible, as the disease can cause complications and serious health problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) if it is left untreated. It is also important that all the patients current and recent sexual partners are tested and treated for the disease if necessary.
Sometimes, you may be given a single dose of antibiotics by injection. Recently, it has become apparent that some strains of gonorrhoea are becoming resistant to some antibiotics. If the infection does not clear up after treatment prescribed, your doctor may prescribe stronger variations.
You should avoid sexual intercourse and intimate contact with other partners until you have completed the antibiotics.
Prevention of Gonorrhoea
The most effective way to reduce the risk of infection is to use a condom (male or female ), If used correctly they are over 99% effective in preventing sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For oral sex use a condom or the latex square (dental dam) to cover female genitals. These measures can also protect you from other STIs such as HIV and chlamydia.
Complications of Gonorrhoea
Around 50% women and 10% men who have contracted gonorrhoea do not experience any symptoms, which means it can often go untreated for some time. This can cause serious health problems in later life, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can be very unpleasant causing abdominal pain, tenderness and fever. If left untreated it may lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancy (women), and in men it can lead to inflamed testicles, and inflamed prostate gland and infertility.
I May Have Gonorrhoea
If you have any concerns relating to this condition, or any conditions described on this website, please contact the Sunshine Clinic
by telephone to arrange an appointment with Dr Sood,
on 0845 505 0552
or use the contact form