Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacteria. The number of people getting gonorrhoea in Scotland has doubled over the last 5 years.

How do you get gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is passed from person to person through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex (without a condom). It can also be spread by:

  • sharing sex toys that aren't washed or covered with a new condom each time they're used
  • infected semen or vaginal fluid getting into your eye
  • it can also be passed to a newborn during childbirth

Symptoms of gonorrhoea

Many people with gonorrhoea will not notice any symptoms.

If symptoms do appear, they usually show up between 1 to 14 days after coming into contact with the infection.

Symptoms of gonorrrhoea may include:

  • green or yellow fluid coming out of the penis
  • pain or a burning sensation when peeing
  • discomfort and swelling of the testicles
  • increased discharge from the vagina
  • pain in the lower tummy, particularly during sex
  • bleeding in between periods or after sex

Gonorrhoea can also infect the throat, anus or eyes. You may experience pain or discharge in these areas if there is an infection. Gonorrhoea in the throat usually has no symptoms.

Testing for gonorrhoea

If you think you have gonorrhoea you should make an appointment with your GP or local sexual health services.

The tests for gonorrhoea are simple, painless and very reliable.

They involve sending a swab from the area thought to be infected to a lab for analysis. In most cases, you don’t have to be examined by a doctor or nurse and can often collect the sample yourself.

There are 2 main ways the sample can be collected:

  • using a swab – a small cotton bud is gently wiped over the area that might be infected, such as inside the vagina, anus or throat
  • peeing into a container – this should ideally be done at least 1 or 2 hours after you last peed

Some sexual health clinics may be able to carry out rapid tests and give you your test results straight away. Otherwise, you will have to wait up to 2 weeks to get the results.

Online appointment booking

You may be able to book an appointment for an STI test online using the online booking system. This varies for different NHS board areas.

Treatment for gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics usually given as an injection. If this is not suitable it can in some cases be treated with tablets.

Some strains of gonorrhoea are becoming resistant to antibiotics. This can make it more difficult to treat. Resistance is checked by sending an additional swab to look for resistance and re-testing for the infection 3 weeks after treatment.

If there's a high chance that you have gonorrhoea, you may be given treatment before you get your results back.

You may also be offered treatment if your partner is found to have gonorrhoea.

Tell the doctor or nurse if you:

  • are pregnant
  • think you might be pregnant
  • are breastfeeding

This may make a difference to the antibiotic you're prescribed.

If your infection is untreated you may pass it onto other sexual partners.

Gonorrohea can occasionally lead to other more serious problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) when the infection gets into the womb and fallopian tubes. This could lead to problems such as infertility and ectopic pregnancy.

If you have a gonorrhoea infection during pregnancy it can result in giving birth to the baby early (premature birth). In addition, the infection can be passed on to the baby during birth and result in a severe eye infection in the infant.

The infection can also spread to the testicles causing pain, swelling and inflammation and in some cases infertility.

Avoiding passing on gonorrhoea to a partner

If you have gonorrhoea your partner will be offered testing and treatment.

It's important to avoid sex until you and your partner have both finished the treatment for gonorrhoea and have had the results of the 2 week test to prevent reinfection.

Reducing the risk of gonorrhoea

The best way to prevent all sexually transmitted infections is to practice safer sex. This means using a condom for vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Other STIs

It's recommended that you are tested for all STIs if you have been diagnosed with gonorrhoea, including:

Last updated:
02 December 2022

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