Introduction

Gonorrhoea is a common bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) and caused by a bacteria which is found mainly in the semen and vaginal fluids of men and women who have the infection. Gonorrhoea is easily passed from one person to another through sexual contact. Anyone who is sexually active can get it and pass it on. You do not need to have lots of sexual partners. It can be painful and can cause serious health problems such as infertility in both men and women.

Symptoms

The incubation period for gonorrhoea is normally from 2-14 days. About 10% infected men and 50% infected women will not have any obvious signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms can show up 1-14 days after coming into contact with gonorrhoea, many months later, or not until the infection spreads to other parts of your body.

Symptoms of Men:

  • An unusual discharge from the tip of the penis – the discharge may be white, yellow or green
  • Pain when passing urine
  • Pain or tenderness in the testicles
  • Inflammation of the foreskin (less common).
  • Infection in the rectum. This does not usually have any signs and symptoms but may cause anal pain, discomfort or discharge.
  • Infection in the throat. This usually has no symptoms.
  • Infection in the eyes. This can cause pain, swelling, irritation and discharge (conjunctivitis).

Symptoms of Women:

  • An abnormal discharge from vagina – it may be white, yellow or green that comes along with an odor
  • Frequent pain when passing urine
  • Infection in the rectum. This does not usually have any signs and symptoms but may cause anal pain, discomfort or abnormal discharge.
  • Infection in the throat. This usually has no symptoms.
  • Infection in the eyes. This can cause pain, swelling, irritation and discharge (conjunctivitis).
  • Pregnant women diagnosed with gonorrhea may pass the virus to the eyes of the newborn baby, which could lead to vision loss
How is Gonorrhoea passed on

Gonorrhoea is usually passed from one person to another during sex. The bacteria can live inside the cells of the cervix, the urethra, the rectum, the throat and occasionally the eyes. You can become infected with gonorrhoea if you come into contact with infected semen or infected discharge from the vagina, throat or rectum.

The infection is most commonly spread through:

  • Unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex
  • Sharing sex toys if you don’t wash them or cover them with a new condom each time they’re used.

Gonorrhoea bacteria that come into contact with the eye can cause conjunctivitis. This is uncommon in adults. You cannot catch gonorrhoea from kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or from sharing cups, plates or cutlery.

Gonorrhoea tests

You can only be certain you have gonorrhoea if you have a test. If you think you may have gonorrhea, it is important that you do not delay getting a test. You could still have gonorrhoea even if your partner has tested negative. If you have had gonorrhoea and it has been treated, you will not be immune to the infection – you can get it again. If you have gonorrhea, you may wish to be tested for other sexually transmitted infections as you can have more than one sexually transmitted infection at the same time. Having gonorrhoea can mean you are more at risk of becoming infected with HIV if you are having sex with a partner who is HIV positive.

How soon after sex can I have a test?

It is important not to delay getting a test if you think you might have gonorrhoea. It is possible to do a gonorrhea DNA test within a week after having sex. You can test for gonorrhoea even if there are no symptoms.

What does the test involve?

  • You will be asked to provide a urine sample. 
  • If you have had oral or anal sex earlier, our doctor may use swabs to collect cells from your rectum and throat. These swabs are not done routinely.
  • If you have symptoms of conjunctivitis – discharge from the eye(s) – swabs will also be used to collect a sample of discharge from your eye(s).
Treatment
  • Treatment of gonorrhoea involves taking a single dose of antibiotic tablet(s) or having one antibiotic injection.
  • If there is a high chance you have the infection, treatment may be started before receiving the check-up results.
  • You will be given treatment if your partner is found to have gonorrhea, even you do not have any symptoms.
  • You may also need other treatment if complications have occurred.

What happens if Gonorrhoea is not treated?

If gonorrhoea is treated early, it is unlikely to cause any long term problems. However, without effective treatment, the infection can spread to other parts of the body. The more times you have gonorrhea, the more likely you are to get complications.

  • Gonorrhoea can lead to a painful infection in the testicles and prostate gland and possibly reduced fertility.
  • Less commonly, gonorrhoea can cause inflammation of the joints and tendons, and skin lesions.
  • Rarely, gonorrhoea can also cause inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and the heart.

 

Reference

“Gonorrhoea” – The family planning association of UK

http://www.fpa.org.uk/helpandadvice/sexuallytransmittedinfectionsstis/gonorrhoea

Marangoni A et al. Evaluation of the new test VERSANT CT/GC DNA 1.0 assay for the detection of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae in urine specimens. J Clin Lab Anal. 2012 Feb;26(2):70-2