What is it?
Probably the best-known STI. It's caused by a bacteria that lives in moist, warm parts of the body.
What are the main symptoms?
One in ten men won't have any symptoms but those who do.
- A white, yellow or green discharge from the tip of the penis.
- Burning pain on passing urine.
- Infection of the back passage (rectum) may produce discharge from the anus and pain during anal sex.
- Sore throat (if the throat is directly infected).
What's the risk?
Gonorrhoea is the second most common sexually transmitted bacterial infection after Chlamydia.
You can become infected with gonorrhoea through oral, vaginal or anal sex.
What causes it?
A bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
How can I prevent it?
Practising safe sex by using a condom and reducing the number of sexual partners will help reduce the risk of infection.
Should I see a doctor?
To prevent the risk of transmitting gonorrhoea to a partner, symptoms should be treated as soon as you notice them. Infection occasionally causes epididymitis (inflammation of the male reproductive tubes). In women gonorrhoea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to infertility.
- Your best bet is to visit a specialist GUM clinic, which can provide a confidential service.
- There are many strains of gonorrhoea, and around 12% have become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat them — proper investigation is therefore very important.
- Diagnosis is made using a urethral swab, which involves the insertion of a cotton bud inside the tip of your penis — this can be uncomfortable but isn't painful.
- Rectal and throat swabs may also be taken, depending on your sexual behaviour.
What are the main treatments?
Antibiotics — a single dose of ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin or ampicillin. A single dose of ceftriaxone, cefotaxime or spectinomycin, injected into muscle, may be given to treat resistant strains.
How can I help myself?
- You can get a sexual health check-up at a local GUM clinic, where you will be tested for gonorrhoea and other STIs.
- Don't have unprotected sex until you've finished your treatment and your partner has also been tested. This will give your body time to heal and prevent the risk of re-infection.
What's the outlook?
Gonorrhoea can be easily, effectively and permanently treated. If left untreated it can ultimately cause serious problems such as arthritis and even blindness.
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Date of last review 08/04/14
Date of next review 08/04/17
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