Gonorrhoea is a common STI caused by a bacterial infection. It can be treated with antibiotics.

How do you get gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is passed on through sexual contact like oral, vaginal or anal sex. It can also be passed on by sharing sex toys.

You cannot get gonorrhoea from kissing, hugging, towels, or toilet seats. The bacteria cannot survive outside the body for long.

Symptoms of gonorrhoea

Many people who have gonorrhoea will not have any symptoms. It’s important to test regularly as people often have the infection without knowing.

If you do have symptoms, they can take a few weeks to appear. You might notice:

  • unusual discharge from your penis or vagina

  • pain when peeing

  • pelvic pain

  • irregular periods or bleeding between periods

If you have any symptoms of gonorrhoea, you should visit your local sexual health clinic.

Getting tested for gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea does not show in tests straight away. It can take up to 2 weeks (14 days) before tests can detect the infection. So to get the most accurate results, we recommend you wait at least 2 weeks (14 days) after sexual contact before you do a test.

To test for genital gonorrhoea, you’ll need to do a vaginal swab or take a urine sample. For anal or oral gonorrhoea, you’ll be offered a rectal swab or a throat swab.

With SH:24 home STI tests, you can test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea from the same samples.

How to avoid gonorrhoea

The best way to avoid gonorrhoea is by using condoms and other barrier protection during sexual activity. This means:

  • use condoms for vaginal or anal sex

  • use a condom or dental dam during oral sex

  • wash sex toys or cover them with a fresh condom before sharing them with another person

You can get free condoms at sexual health clinics. Regular testing helps reduce the spread of STIs. We recommend you test at least once a year. If you regularly have sex with new partners, we recommend testing every 3 months.

Is gonorrhoea serious?

All sexually transmitted infections can be serious if they're not treated quickly. Without treatment, gonorrhoea can cause long-term health problems. But it’s easy to treat.

If you have a vulva, untreated gonorrhoea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which affects other parts of your reproductive system. This can cause ongoing pain, problems with getting pregnant and increase your risk of an ectopic pregnancy (when a pregnancy develops outside the womb).

It can also cause problems during pregnancy. And it can be passed on to your baby during birth. If this happens, the baby can develop an eye infection.

If you have a penis, gonorrhoea can spread and cause an infection in your testicles or prostate.

Treatment for gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is treated with an antibiotic injection. You need to have this done by a trained clinician. You can get this treatment at your local sexual health clinic or your GP.

Once you’ve been diagnosed, you should not have any sex until 7 days after you've had treatment. If you have sex before you're treated, you can pass the infection on to your partners.

If you use our home STI tests, we’ll text you with your results as soon as they're available. If you need treatment, we'll help you get it.

Telling your partner

If you have gonorrhoea, you should tell your current partner and anyone else you’ve had sex with in the last 6 months. They can have the infection without knowing it, so it‘s important that they get a test.

When you get treatment for gonorrhoea, the sexual health service should offer to help you with telling your partners. They can help you do this anonymously, so you can let partners know they’ve had contact with an infection, without giving them your name.

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