Testing for Gonorrhoea


Testing for Gonorrhoea

Testing for Gonorrhoea

Page Contents
The Symptoms of Gonorrhoea
Symptoms in Women
Symptoms in Men
Gonorrhoea Infection in other Parts of the Body
Gonorrhoea in Babies
Testing for Gonorrhoea
Treating Gonorrhoea
When can I have Sex again?




Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI), that is caused by the Neisseria Gonorrhoeae or Gonococcus bacteria and was traditionally known as 'the clap'. These bacteria can cause an unpleasant discharge from the penis and vagina, which can be passed on to others through sexual contact and sharing sex toys (if not suitably washed or protected with a new condom each time). The bacteria can also live in other areas of the body, including inside the cells of the cervix, the urethra (the tube where urine comes out), the rectum, the throat, and occasionally the eyes.

Gonorrhoea cannot be spread by kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels, swimming pools, toilet seats, and sharing eating and drinking utensils, including cutlery. This is because the bacterium has a short life expectancy outside of the human body. Despite this, anyone who is sexually active can easily contract and pass on gonorrhoea. You do not need to have lots of sexual partners. A gonorrhoea infection can be painful and, if it is not treated early, it can cause painful complications and serious health problems.

It is also worth being aware that gonorrhoea can be passed on to your unborn child if you are pregnant, consequently, if you are pregnant it is important to get tested as quickly as possible. Without treatment, gonorrhoea can cause permanent blindness in newborn children.




The Symptoms of Gonorrhoea

Symptoms of gonorrhoea usually present within 2 weeks of being infected, although in some cases they will not appear until many months later. It is worth being aware that when dealing with gonorrhoea, approximately half of all women and 1 in 10 men with genital gonorrhoea will not have any obvious signs or symptoms of infection until it spreads to other parts of the body, which means, unfortunately, the condition can go untreated for some time.




Symptoms in Women

The signs and symptoms of gonorrhoea in women can develop from 1 to 14 days after coming into contact with the bacteria, and in some instances many months later; sometimes symptoms only present themselves once the infection spreads to other parts of the body. If you have gonorrhoea the symptoms can include:


  • An unusual vaginal discharge, that might be thin and watery and yellow or green in colour.
  • Pain or a burning sensation when passing urine.
  • Pain or tenderness in the lower abdominal area, which is less common.
  • Bleeding between periods, heavier periods, and bleeding after sex, although this can be less common.


If you think you may have gonorrhoea, it is important that you get tested as quickly as possible. This is because gonorrhoea can lead to more serious long-term health problems in women if it is not treated, including Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which is an infection of the female upper genital tract, including the womb, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Gonorrhoea can also cause infertility. If you are pregnant, please be aware that gonorrhoea can be passed on to your unborn child, and without treatment, gonorrhoea can cause permanent blindness in newborn babies.




Symptoms in Men

Symptoms of gonorrhoea usually occur within 2 to 14 days after exposure to this particular sexually transmitted infection. The first noticeable symptom in men is often a burning or painful sensation whilst urinating, although other symptoms can include:


  • An unusual discharge from the tip of the penis, that might be white, yellow, or green.
  • Pain or a burning sensation when urinating
  • Inflammation (swelling) of the foreskin.
  • Pain or tenderness in the testicles (although this is quite rare).


However, it is worth remembering that 1 in 10 men who have genital gonorrhoea will not have any signs of the above symptoms, this is known as a nonsymptomatic carrier, but it is still contagious. Consequently, if you think you may have contracted gonorrhoea, it is important to get tested as quickly as possible, so that you do not spread the infection to other partners.




Gonorrhoea Infection in Other Parts of the Body

Both men and women can develop an infection in the rectum, eyes, or throat by having unprotected anal or oral sex. If infected semen or vaginal fluid comes into contact with the eyes, you can also develop conjunctivitis - an eye condition caused by an infection or allergies. Infection in the rectum can cause discomfort, pain, or discharge. Infection in the eyes can cause irritation, pain, swelling, and discharge. Infection in the throat usually causes no symptoms.




Gonorrhoea in Babies

As previously stated above, gonorrhoea can be passed from a mother to her baby during childbirth. Newborn babies normally show symptoms in their eyes during the first 2 weeks. The eyes become red and swollen and have a thick, pus-like discharge. Without treatment, gonorrhoea can cause permanent blindness in newborn babies, consequently, if you think you may have or are demonstrating the symptoms of gonorrhoea it is important to get tested and treated as quickly as possible.

It is worth knowing that gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics when you are pregnant and even when you are breastfeeding. The antibiotics that will be prescribed will not harm your baby.




Testing for Gonorrhoea

The only reliable way to find out if you have gonorrhoea is to get tested. If you suspect you have gonorrhoea or any other STI, it is important to get tested as quickly as possible. Although it is technically possible to be tested for gonorrhoea within a few days of having sex, even if you do not have any symptoms, you may be advised to wait up to a week. This is due to the incubation period for gonorrhoea, which is from 2 to 6 days. If you are tested before the incubation period is over, it is recommended that you get tested again to confirm the results once the incubation period has passed.

Early diagnosis and treatment of gonorrhoea greatly reduces the risk of any complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or infection in the testicles, as complications that occur from a long-term infection are much more difficult to treat. As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that you get tested if:


  • You or your partner think you have symptoms of gonorrhoea.
  • You have had unprotected sex with a new partner.
  • You or your partner have had unprotected sex with other people.
  • You have another sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • A sexual partner tells you they have an STI.
  • During a vaginal examination, your nurse or doctor tells you that the cells of your cervix are inflammed or there is a discharge.
  • You are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy.


The Urine Test for Gonorrhoea

There are many different ways to test for gonorrhoea; for example, a swab is used to remove a bacterial culture sample for testing. At P&S Chemist when we test for gonorrhoea, we use a urine sample. Whilst a urine test may not be traditionally the most reliable, with the advances in bacterial DNA testing and the DNA amplification technique LCR (Ligase Chain Reaction) these concerns are now largely unfounded.

The greatest advantage of a urine test for gonorrhoea is that it is less invasive and the sample can be provided by yourself in the comfort of your own home and given to us at our pharmacy, without any discomfort of a physical exam for a swab sample. Although, when doing a urine sample, it is important not to urinate for 2 hours before you provide the sample because this can 'wash' the bacteria away and affect the result of your test. Unlike many tests for gonorrhoea, which can take up to 2 weeks to get your results, at P&S Chemist you should receive yours between 5 and 7 days approximately.


Testing for Gonorrhoea in other parts of the Body

If you have a gonorrhoea infection of the rectum, throat, or eyes. The only way to collect a sample is to use a swab to take a sample from these areas. Currently, P&S Chemist is unable to provide gonorrhoea testing using a swab, if you think you have a gonorrhoea infection of the rectum, throat, or eyes it is advisable that you go to your nearest sexual health clinic or doctor.

It is important that your current sexual partner and any additional sexual partners you have had during the past 6 months are also tested and treated. Our pharmacist, a qualified sexual health advisor, can help you to contact your recent sexual partners if you would prefer.




Treating Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is usually treated with a short course of antibiotics. Antibiotics work by killing the gonorrhoea bacteria or by preventing them from reproducing and spreading. As a rule of thumb, treatment is recommended if:


  • Tests have shown you have gonorrhoea.
  • There is a high chance you have gonorrhoea, even though your test results have yet to be provided.
  • Your sexual partner is found to have gonorrhoea.


In most cases of infection, treatment involves having a single antibiotic injection (usually in the buttocks or thigh) followed by one antibiotic tablet. It may be possible to have two antibiotic tablets instead of an injection if you prefer, but this is dependent on clinical factors and it is best to follow the advice of our pharmacist.

If you are symptomatic, meaning you are showing the signs and symptoms of gonorrhoea. These will normally improve within a few days, although it can take up to 2 weeks for any pain in your pelvis or testicles to disappear entirely. Bleeding between periods or heavy periods should generally improve by the time of your next period. A follow-up appointment is usually recommended a week or 2 after the initial treatment so that another test can be carried out to ensure you are clear of infection, although this is voluntary.

Gonorrhoea is easily passed on through intimate sexual contact. If you are diagnosed with it, anyone you have recently had sex with may have it too. So, it is important that your current partner and any other recent sexual partners are tested and treated.

Your local sexual health clinic may be able to help by notifying any of your previous partners on your behalf. A contact slip can be sent, explaining that they may have been exposed to a STI and suggesting they go for a check-up. This slip will not contain your name, so your confidentiality is protected.

As with all medicines, you should always take antibiotics as directed on your medicine packaging, the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication, or as instructed by your pharmacist or doctor. It is essential you completely finish the prescribed course of antibiotics, even if you feel better unless a healthcare professional tells you otherwise. If you stop taking your antibiotics part way through your prescribed course, the bacteria can become resistant to the antibiotic.




When can I have Sex again?

As a rule, you should not have sex, this includes vaginal, oral, or anal sex, even with a condom - until both you and your partner have completed treatment and have been given the all-clear, which includes the follow-up testing phase to ensure that you are both clear of the STI. This is to prevent re-infection or passing the infection on to anyone else.


If you think you are at risk of having an STI or have any symptoms of gonorrhoea, visit us at P&S Chemist, your doctor, or alternatively your local sexual health clinic to get tested.

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Page last reviewed: 12/03/2022
Next review date: 12/03/2024