Cookies on the Bupa website

We use cookies to help us understand ease of use and relevance of content. This ensures that we can give you the best experience on our website. If you continue, we'll assume that you are happy to receive cookies for this purpose. Find out more about cookies

Continue

Navigation

Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). A mother can also pass the infection on to her baby when she gives birth.

Gonorrhoea is a common STI in the UK; it was diagnosed in over 25,500 people in 2012. There are likely to be many more people who aren’t diagnosed because around half of women and one in 10 men have no symptoms. Gonorrhoea is more common in people aged 20 to 24 than in other age groups. In the UK, it’s particularly common in men who have sex with men and people who live in large cities.

Gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics. If you don’t get treatment, it can cause health and fertility problems.

Read more Close

Details

  • Symptoms Symptoms of gonorrhoea

    You may not have any symptoms of gonorrhoea. If you get symptoms, they usually begin within the first two to five days of getting infected in men, and within 10 days in women.

    In men, symptoms of gonorrhoea include:

    • an unusual discharge from your penis that is yellow or bloody 
    • pain when you pass urine 
    • pain and swelling in your testicles

    In women, symptoms of gonorrhoea include:

    • an increased or unusual discharge from your vagina that is yellow or bloody 
    • pain when you pass urine 
    • pain in your lower abdomen (tummy) 
    • pain during sex
    • bleeding between periods
    • heavy periods 

    In both men and women, if you have a gonorrhoea infection in your rectum (back passage) it can cause pain and discomfort. You can also get a discharge from your anus. However, most people don’t have any symptoms.

    An infection in your eyes will commonly cause conjunctivitis. A gonorrhoea infection in your throat will rarely cause any symptoms but you can still pass on the infection to others through oral sex.

    If you have any of these symptoms or think you could be at risk, visit a sexual health clinic or see your GP.

  • Diagnosis Diagnosis of gonorrhoea

    If you think you may have gonorrhoea, visit a sexual health clinic or see your GP. Some family planning clinics also provide testing and treatment.

    Your GP will usually refer you to a sexual health clinic to be tested and to get treatment, or you can make your own appointment. All visits are confidential and you don’t have to give your real name. Details won’t be sent to your GP without your consent.

    You can have a test for gonorrhoea even if you don’t have any symptoms.

    There are different ways to test for gonorrhoea.

    • It’s possible that a sample of your urine will be tested. You may be asked not to go to the toilet for at least an hour before this test. This is normally just used in men.
    • A doctor or nurse may use a swab (similar to a small, round cotton bud) to take a sample. The sample will be taken from the urethra, cervix or vagina (in women) or from the tip of the penis (in men). Women may have the option to collect a sample of cells from their vagina themselves using a swab. 
    • If you have recently had anal or oral sex, a doctor or nurse may use a swab to take a sample from your rectum or throat.

    Your samples may be sent to a laboratory for testing. Or a doctor may look for the bacteria under a microscope and give you the result immediately.

    If the tests show that you have gonorrhoea, it’s important to contact your previous partners who may be at risk. This will help to prevent them from spreading the infection to others. Sexual health clinics can support you with this.

  • Treatment Treatment of gonorrhoea

    You will be prescribed a combination of two antibiotics to treat gonorrhoea. You will usually take a single dose tablet and have a single injection. You may also be offered treatment for chlamydia at the same time because the two infections often occur together.

    Once you’re diagnosed with gonorrhoea, it’s important to wait until you and your partner have completed your treatment before you have sex again. This will usually be seven days after taking antibiotics. The doctor who treats you may offer to test you again to check whether the treatment has worked. You will be advised to wait until you’re given you the ‘all clear’ before you have sex again.

    Special considerations

    Tell any doctor you visit if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. He or she will be able to choose an antibiotic that is safe for your baby.

    There can be complications of untreated gonorrhoea when you’re pregnant. These include your baby being born prematurely or your waters breaking too early. It’s also possible to pass on gonorrhoea to your baby when you give birth. This can cause conjunctivitis in babies, which must be treated. If not, there is a risk that your baby may go blind.

  • Private GP appointments

    With our GP services, we aim to give you an appointment the next day, subject to availability. Find out more today.

  • Causes Causes of gonorrhoea

    Gonorrhoea is caused by bacteria called N. gonorrhoeae. These bacteria can infect:

    • the neck of the womb (cervix) 
    • the tube that carries urine from your bladder and out of your body (urethra) 
    • your rectum
    • your throat
    • your eyes

    N. gonorrhoeae is found in the semen of men and the vaginal fluids of women who have the infection. You can get or pass on gonorrhoea during vaginal, anal or oral sex, as well as by sharing sex toys.

    A mother can also pass on gonorrhoea to her baby when she gives birth.

  • Complications Complications of gonorrhoea

    If you get treatment for gonorrhoea early, it’s less likely to cause you any further problems. If you don’t get treatment, there is a risk of the infection spreading to other parts of your body and causing complications. Not everyone who gets gonorrhoea will have complications, but the more times you have the infection, the greater your chance of them.

    In women, a gonorrhoea infection can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease if the infection spreads to your womb (uterus), fallopian tubes and ovaries. Pelvic inflammatory disease can cause infertility and ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilised egg implants outside your womb, most often in one of your fallopian tubes).

    In men, a gonorrhoea infection can spread to your testicles. This may lead to pain and inflammation (swelling) in the tubes that carry sperm. This can lead to infertility although it’s rare.

    The infection can potentially spread to other parts of your body too. You can get symptoms such as a fever, pain, tiredness, joint pain and swelling or a rash. Your heart, joints and spine can also be affected.

  • Prevention Prevention of gonorrhoea

    There are ways to lower your risk of getting or passing on gonorrhoea.

    • Use condoms when having vaginal, oral or anal sex. 
    • Don’t share sex toys. If you do share them, wash them or cover them with a new condom before anyone else uses them. 
    • Before having sex with a new partner, you could both consider having a test for gonorrhoea and other STIs.
  • FAQs FAQs

    After treatment, do I need to have another test to check that gonorrhoea has cleared up?

    Answer

    Yes, it’s a good idea to return to your GP surgery or sexual health clinic to be tested to ensure that the infection has gone.

    Explanation

    Gonorrhoea bacteria have begun to show resistance to the antibiotics used to treat the infection. This means that the infection is more difficult to treat now. This is one reason why your GP or clinic will ask you to return after you have finished your course of treatment. This way they can check that you’re no longer infected. Other reasons to go back for another test include:

    • still having symptoms that haven’t gone away
    • having gonorrhoea infection in your throat
    • being pregnant

    Keep your appointment for the final test because you may need further treatment. If the first treatment hasn’t worked, you risk passing on the infection to someone else, and developing complications.

    How soon after having unprotected sex can I have a test for gonorrhoea?

    Answer

    If you think you may have been infected with gonorrhoea, don’t delay getting tested. However, you may need to return after two weeks to be sure of the diagnosis. You can still have a test even if you don’t have any symptoms. Around one in 10 men and half of women will have no symptoms even though they have the infection.

    Explanation

    It can take up to 10 days before gonorrhoea infection can be detected. It’s best to wait about three days after you last had sex to have your first test. However, you may need to return for further testing up to two weeks later to be sure that you have the right diagnosis.

    If there is a high chance you have been infected, you may be offered treatment before your results come back. This may be because your sexual partner has tested positive for gonorrhoea, for example. The sooner gonorrhoea is treated, the better your chance of making a full recovery and having fewer complications.

    If I have gonorrhoea, is it likely that I have another sexually transmitted infection (STI) too?

    Answer

    Yes, often people who have gonorrhoea also have other STIs, such as chlamydia.

    Explanation

    Around one in three people who have gonorrhoea are infected with chlamydia at the same time. It’s a good idea to be tested for other STIs (if you’re offered them) when you’re being tested for gonorrhoea.

    Research suggests if you’re infected with gonorrhoea, you’re around four times more at risk of being infected with HIV if you’re exposed to the virus. It’s important to find out if you have any STIs, such as gonorrhoea, and complete your course of treatment. This will help to protect you from complications and prevent you from passing on the infection.

  • Resources Resources

    Further information

    Sources

    • Gonorrhoea. BMJ Clinical Evidence. www.clinicalevidence.bmj.com, published 21 February 2014
    • Map of Medicine. Gonorrhoea. International View. London: Map of Medicine; 2011 (Issue 3) 
    • Health protection report. Public Health England. www.hpa.org.uk, published 7 June 2013
    • Gonorrhoea. PatientPlus. www.patient.co.uk/patientplus.asp, published 17 November 2011
    • Bignell C, Fitzgerald M. UK national guideline for the management of gonorrhoea in adults, 2011. Int J STD AIDS 2011; 22(10):541–47. doi:10.1258/ijsa.2011.011267
    • A BASHH guide to – gonorrhoea. British Association for Sexual Health and HIV. www.bashh.org, published January 2012
    • Gonorrhoea. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, published November 2011
    • General information. Public Health England. www.hpa.org.uk, published 4 March 2014
    • Gonorrhea. Medscape. www.emedicine.medscape.com, published 29 July 2013
    • How to get help with your sexual health. Family Planning Association. www.fpa.org.uk, published 4 March 2014
    • United Kingdom national guideline for gonorrhoea testing 2012. British Association for Sexual Health and HIV. www.bashh.org, published 2012
    • Gonoccocal resistance to antimicrobials surveillance programme (GRASP) action plan for England and Wales: informing the public health response. Public Health England. www.hpa.org.uk, published February 2013
  • Has our information helped you? Tell us what you think about this page

    We’d love to know what you think about what you’ve just been reading and looking at – we’ll use it to improve our information. If you’d like to give us some feedback, our short form below will take just a few minutes to complete. And if there's a question you want to ask that hasn't been answered here, please submit it to us. Although we can't respond to specific questions directly, we’ll aim to include the answer to it when we next review this topic.

    Let us know what you think using our short feedback form
    Ask us a question
  • Related information Related information

  • Author information Author information

    Reviewed by Rachael Mayfield-Blake, Bupa Health Information Team, March 2014.

    Let us know what you think using our short feedback form
    Ask us a question

About our health information

At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care. Here are just a few of the ways in which our core editorial principles have been recognised.

  • Information Standard

    We are certified by the Information Standard. This quality mark identifies reliable, trustworthy producers and sources of health information.
    Information standard logo
  • HONcode

    This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

    This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.

What our readers say about us

But don't just take our word for it; here's some feedback from our readers.

Simple and easy to use website - not alarming, just helpful.

It’s informative but not too detailed. I like that it’s factual and realistic about the conditions and the procedures involved. It’s also easy to navigate to areas that you specifically want without having to read all the information.

Good information, easy to find, trustworthy.

Meet the team

Image of Andrew Byron

Andrew Byron
Head of health content and clinical engagement




  • Dylan Merkett – Lead Editor – UK Customer
  • Nick Ridgman – Lead Editor – UK Health and Care Services
  • Natalie Heaton – Specialist Editor – User Experience
  • Pippa Coulter – Specialist Editor – Content Library
  • Alice Rossiter – Specialist Editor – Insights
  • Laura Blanks – Specialist Editor – Quality
  • Michelle Harrison – Editorial Assistant

Our core principles

All our health content is produced in line with our core editorial principles – readable, reliable, relevant – which are represented by our diagram.

An image showing or editorial principals

                  Click to open full-size image

The ‘3Rs’ encompass everything we believe good health information should be. From tweets to in-depth reports, videos to quizzes, every piece of content we produce has these as its foundation.

Readable

In a nutshell, our information is jargon-free, concise and accessible. We know our audience and we meet their health information needs, helping them to take the next step in their health and wellbeing journey.

Reliable

We use the best quality and most up-to-date evidence to produce our information. Our process is transparent and validated by experts – both our users and medical specialists.

Relevant

We know that our users want the right information at the right time, in the way that suits them. So we review our content at least every three years to keep it fresh. And we’re embracing new technology and social media so they can get it whenever and wherever they choose.

Our accreditation

Here are just a few of the ways in which the quality of our information has been recognised.

  • The Information Standard certification scheme

    You will see the Information Standard quality mark on our content. This is a certification programme, supported by NHS England, that was developed to ensure that public-facing health and care information is created to a set of best practice principles.

    It uses only recognised evidence sources and presents the information in a clear and balanced way. The Information Standard quality mark is a quick and easy way for you to identify reliable and trustworthy producers and sources of information.

    Certified by the Information Standard as a quality provider of health and social care information. Bupa shall hold responsibility for the accuracy of the information they publish and neither the Scheme Operator nor the Scheme Owner shall have any responsibility whatsoever for costs, losses or direct or indirect damages or costs arising from inaccuracy of information or omissions in information published on the website on behalf of Bupa.

  • British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards

    We have received a number of BMA awards for different assets over the years. Most recently, in 2013, we received a 'commended' award for our online shared decision making hub.

Contact us

If you have any feedback on our health information, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email: healthinfo@bupa.com. Or you can write to us:

Health Content Team
Bupa House
15-19 Bloomsbury Way
London
WC1A 2BA

Find out more Close

Legal disclaimer

This information was published by Bupa's Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition.

The information contained on this page and in any third party websites referred to on this page is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment. Third party websites are not owned or controlled by Bupa and any individual may be able to access and post messages on them. Bupa is not responsible for the content or availability of these third party websites. We do not accept advertising on this page.

For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the 'About our health information' section.

ˆ We may record or monitor our calls.