Health conditions

Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea (also known as ‘the clap’) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria.

How do you get gonorrhoea

Sexually transmitted infection (STI) – any infection or disease that can be passed from one person to another during sexual activity.

You can get gonorrhoea by having unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex with an infected person. An infected mother can pass gonorrhoea on to her baby during birth, which can cause blindness.

Unless it’s found and treated early, gonorrhoea can lead to infertility (so you can’t have a baby) in both men and women. In rare cases, the infection can spread to the joints, heart and brain, causing permanent damage or even death.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Most boys and men get a yellow discharge from the penis and a burning sensation when urinating, within a week of getting infected.

Most girls and women have no symptoms at all. Some may notice unusual discharge from the vagina or pain when urinating. If the infection spreads to the uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes (which carry eggs to the uterus), it can cause lower belly pain, or pain during vaginal sex.

A sore throat or discharge from the rectum can also be symptoms of gonorrhoea in both men and women, especially after oral or anal sex.

How do I know if I have gonorrhoea?

See your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may have gonorrhoea.

The doctor will test a sample of urine, and test areas likely to be affected using a swab. The samples will be tested in a laboratory.

It’s a good idea to have tests for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, syphilis and HIV at the same time.

Your doctor should also talk to you about contact tracing. Contact tracing involves finding and informing the contacts of a person with an infection so they can get counselling and testing, and treatment if necessary. You can do the contact tracing yourself and/or with help of a health professional. Discuss this with your doctor.

How is gonorrhoea treated?

Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics. The treatment varies depending on whether you caught the infection interstate or overseas. After your treatment is finished, you’ll need another test to make sure you are cured.

Don’t have sex, even with a condom, until the treatment is finished and tests show you are cured.

How can gonorrhoea be prevented?

You can reduce the risks of getting gonorrhoea (and other STIs) by following this advice:

  • Always use condoms or dams and water-based lubricant. Condoms are the best way to protect you both from STIs. Always use condoms during vaginal and anal sex, and dams during oral sex, until you’re totally sure that both you and your partner don’t have an STI.
  • Have a long-term relationship where neither of you is already infected, and neither of you has other partners.
  • Limit your sex partners. The fewer people you have sex with, the less chance you have of having sex with someone who has gonorrhoea.
  • Have regular STI checks.

Talking about STIs can be difficult, but any person you have sex with has a right to know if you have an STI. Discuss it when you are feeling relaxed and confident, not just before you have sex. Your partner will appreciate your honesty and that you don’t want to infect him/her. You have the right to know if they are infected, too. Early treatment will cure the infection and stop it spreading.

Where to get help

Remember

  • Most boys and men get a yellow discharge from the penis and a burning sensation when urinating.
  • Most girls and women have no symptoms when they have gonorrhoea.
  • Left untreated, gonorrhoea can cause infertility (so you can’t have a baby).

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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