Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
What is it?
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK.
Gonorrhoea is easily treated. However, if left untreated in women, gonorrhoea can spread to other reproductive organs (the womb and the fallopian tubes). This could go on to cause long-term pain, blocked tubes, infertility and ectopic pregnancy (this is when a pregnancy develops in the fallopian tube rather than in the womb). If untreated in men, gonorrhoea can cause a painful infection in the testicles and prostate gland.
What is “Super-gonorrhoea”?
Super-gonorrhoea is a term sometimes used for extensively drug-resistant strains of gonorrhoea. These strains have high-levels of resistance to certain antibiotics and are therefore treated with alternative antibiotics.
Any person who is diagnosed with gonorrhoea will have a test to check that the infection will respond to the antibiotic they are given.
All patients are advised to use condoms with new or casual partners to reduce the risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection.
How do I catch it?
Gonorrhoea is easily passed from one person to another during vaginal, oral or anal sex. It can also be spread by sex toys if they are not washed or covered by a new condom each time they are used.
The bacteria infect the cells lining the cervix (neck of the womb), urethra (the tube that runs through the penis), rectum (back passage) and sometimes the eyes or throat.
You can’t catch gonorrhoea from kissing, hugging, sharing towels, swimming pools, toilets or sharing cups, plates or cutlery.
Women may notice a change in vaginal discharge – it can increase, change to yellow or green, or have a strong smell. They may also experience pain when passing urine, itching or discharge from the anus, or lower stomach pain. However, they may not have any symptoms at all.
Men may have a yellow or white discharge (liquid) from the penis, pain or tingling when passing urine, inflammation of the testicles, or discharge or discomfort in the anus.
Gonorrhoea in the eyes can cause redness and irritation. Less commonly, gonorrhoea can cause inflammation of the joints and tendons, skin lesions or, rarely, can affect the brain and heart.
Gonorrhoea tests can be done on a urine sample or swabs taken from the genitals (penis or vagina), back passage and throat. We can recommend the best test for you depending on whether you have any symptoms and what they are.
If you’re aged 16 or over and living in Birmingham or Solihull, you can request a free sexually transmitted infection (STI) self-sampling kit. Just follow the instructions in the kit to take your own samples, and return to us for testing, all for free.
Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics – this is likely to be an injection.
If you are treated for gonorrhoea, it is important that any sexual partners are also tested, and treated if needed, before you have sex again.
You will also be offered a test of cure for gonorrhoea again around four weeks after you finish your treatment to ensure that the infection is gone.
All Umbrella clinics provide treatment for sexually transmitted infections. To find clinics, and to see which services they offer, please see the service locator.
Assessing the impact of online self-sampling
We want to hear what you have to say. Taking part involves a confidential interview with a qualified healthcare researcher at a convenient time for you. You’ll get a £30 gift card as a thank you for taking part.
For more information, please see the ASSIST study website.
Detailed information on STIs is available on the NHS website.
See the FPA website for a range of downloadable leaflets on sexually transmitted infections.
The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) website also features a range of downloadable leaflets on STIs.