About 1 in 10 of cases of infected men, and half of all infected women, will not show any obvious symptoms. This means that cases of gonorrhoea often go untreated, and is why it is important to get tested if you think you are at risk, even if you do not notice symptoms.
The symptoms of gonorrhoea are different for men and women.
In women, the symptoms can include:
- An unusual vaginal discharge (thin or watery consistency, green or yellow in colour)
- Burning sensation or pain when passing urine (dysuria)
- Lower abdominal pain or tenderness
- Bleeding between periods
- Sudden heavier menstrual periods (menorrhagia)
- Bleeding after sex
In men, the symptoms of gonorrhoea can include:
- An unusual penile discharge (white, yellow or green colour)
- Aurning sensation or pain when passing urine (dysuria)
- Inflammation (redness or swelling) of the foreskin
- Testicular pain or tenderness
Symptoms occur usually two to ten days from exposure, but in certain cases it can take up to 30 days, and you may not show any symptoms at all.
If untreated, gonorrhoea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women, and can potentially lead to infertility, or ectopic pregnancy. In men, gonorrhoea can affect the prostate and make urination difficult.
Gonorrhoea is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoea, or gonococcus. These bacteria can grow in the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes of women, and in the urethra for both women and men. The infection can also occur in the mouth, throat and anus.
The gonorrhoea bacteria are mainly found in vaginal fluid and normal penile discharge, and is easily passed between people through:
- Having unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex with an infected person
- Sharing sex toys
- The infection can be passed from a pregnant mother to her child during birth, and can cause permanent blindness in newborns
Because the bacteria cannot survive outside of the body for long, you cannot catch gonorrhoea through kissing, hugging, sharing cups, cutlery, towels or baths, or by using a public toilet.
The best method of prevention is to use male or female condoms every time you have sex.
What to do next
Your sexual health is important. Do not hesitate to come to the clinic if you have any concerns. We are available six days a week and always have female doctors available. Give us a call or use our online booking system to make an appointment.
If untreated, gonorrhoea in men can develop into a painful infection of the testicles and can reduce fertility. It also can affect prostate and complicate urination. In women it can spread to reproductive organs causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID in its later stages can lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancy.
Your symptoms, if you have any, usually start to clear up within a few days of treatment, with full relief of pelvic or testicular pain within two weeks. Any irregularities in your menstrual cycle caused by the infection should clear up by the time of your next period.
You should avoid having sex until a follow-up appointment with the doctor has confirmed that you are clear of the infection. This will prevent you from passing it on to anyone else. It is also important that your partner/s follow the same protocol, to avoid re-infection.