Name of disease (also known as): Gonorrhoea (the clap, drips)


Common/ Uncommon: Gonorrhoea is the second most common STI in the UK, particularly affecting males aged 20-24 and females aged 16-19.


Severity: If left untreated, gonorrhoea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, abscesses and complications of pregnancy in women. For men it can give testicular pain, urethral narrowing and damage to the testicles. The risk of infertility increases for both sexes with repeated episodes of infection.


How it is transferred: Vaginal, oral and anal sexual contact. It is also thought that it can be transmitted via sex toys that are shared and not cleaned or protected using a condom.


Symptoms: About 10% of men with gonorrhoea and 50% of women will not have any symptoms, so if you have unprotected sexual contact it is best to get tested.


Possible symptoms in women:


• Increase or change in vaginal discharge

• Lower abdominal pain

• Heavier periods than usual, or bleeding between periods

• Pain or burning when passing urine

• If the infection is in the throat or rectum, this usually has no symptoms but may cause a sore throat or cause the rectum to be itchy. 


In men, infection of the urethra commonly develops 5-7 days after having sex with a person with gonorrhoea, and can cause the following symptoms:


• A discharge of fluid from the penis, usually thick and green or yellow

• Pain or burning when passing urine

• A feeling of wanting to pass urine more frequently

• Redness around the opening of the penis (the urethra)


Testing method: Visit your local genito-urinary (GUM) clinic, sexual health clinic or GP. Testing is confidential and results are often given in the way you prefer (text, email, or phone call).


If no symptoms: Males urinate in tub and blood sample taken. Females do a self-taken swab and blood is taken. 


Symptoms: Health professional takes a painless swab of penis/vagina and a blood sample is taken. Samples can also be taken of the anus and throat, depending on what type of sexual contact you were involved in.


Treatment: The usual treatment is to have an antibiotic injection, as well as taking a single, large dose of antibiotic tablets orally. You will need to have a follow-up test 2-4 weeks after the antibiotics to check that the infection is gone.


How it can be prevented: 

• Barrier methods of contraception (condoms and dental-dams) will prevent the spread of infection; hormonal methods of contraception (the pill, injection, implant and coil) don’t offer any protection. 

• Avoid sharing sex toys. If you do share them, make sure they are covered with a condom which is changed before anyone else uses them, as well as with each use.


Noteworthy points:

• If left untreated, gonorrhoea can lead to infertility and other serious health problems in both men and women.

• It is important to avoid unprotected sex for a week after treatment, to avoid getting re-infected or infecting somebody else.

• If you are told that you have gonorrhoea it is important that any partners with whom you have had unprotected sex are tested and treated too. You must do this at similar time to avoid one partner reinfecting another. A GUM clinic professional can help you with this.

• Get yourself checked as soon as you can if you suspect you might have an STI e.g. after having unprotected sex.


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