What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a bacterial STI.

In women, gonorrhoea infects the urethra and cervix (neck of the uterus).

In men, gonorrhoea infects the urethra (tube inside the penis).



Gonorrhoea is transmitted by:

  • unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • from mother to baby during birth.


Using condoms and lube when you have sex is provides the best protection but it is not 100% effective.

Washing your hands with soap and water immediately after sex can also help prevent transmission, especially if having sex with multiple partners at the same time.

Signs and Symptoms

Most women do not have any signs or symptoms. If symptoms are present they will usually develop within 2-10 days.

If they do, symptoms can include:

  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • irregular bleeding
  • pain or discomfort when urinating
  • lower abdominal pain (including pain during sex).

Men are more likely to have symptoms which may include:

  • soreness or redness at the opening of the penis
  • pain or discomfort when urinating
  • thick yellow or white discharge from the penis
  • anal discharge or discomfort.

In men, gonorrhoea can spread to the testicles and cause pain and swelling.


The best way to find out if you have gonorrhoea is to have a test.

For women, a cervical swab is usually taken from the cervix (entrance to the uterus) and urethra

For men, swabs are usually taken from the tip of the penis.

In both men and women swabs may also be taken from the throat or the rectum.

Having a swab taken is not painful, although it may be uncomfortable.


Gonorrhoea is easily treated with antibiotics. It is very important to finish all the antibiotics, otherwise the infection may not be properly treated and a drug-resistant strain can develop.

If you receive single-dose treatment you should only have sex with a condom and lube for seven days after treatment and seven days after your partner has been treated.

Women: If you are taking a combined oral contraceptive pill you will need to use condoms and lube for 14 days when you have sex because antibiotics reduce the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill. Ask your doctor or nurse if you are unsure.

After completing the treatment, go back to your healthcare professional after three months for a final check-up to make sure the infection is completely cleared and that you haven’t been re-infected.

If You’re HIV + and have gonorrhea…

If diagnosed early, gonorrhoea is easily treatable for people living with HIV. However, if it’s left untreated chlamydia can also increase the risk of HIV being passed on.

Why should I worry about getting gonorrhea?

It is important to get treated for gonorrhoea because if it stays in your body it can lead to serious health problems, including:

Women: If left untreated, gonorrhoea may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is when the reproductive organs, situated in the pelvis, become inflamed. PID can cause ectopic pregnancies (the pregnancy develops in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus), infertility and chronic pelvic pain.

Men: If not treated, gonorrhea can spread to the testicles, leading to pain and swelling. Gonorrhoea may occasionally cause infertility in men.