Gonorrhoea is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It occurs due to bacteria, gonococcus or Neisseria gonorrhoeae. These microorganisms can easily spread from one person to another during sexual intercourse. These bacteria can infect the cervix (entrance to the uterus), urethra (the tube through which urine passes out from the body), and the rectum. In rare cases, gonorrhoea may affect the eyes and throat.
Early detection and proper treatment are vital for limiting the spread of this infection.
Improperly managed gonorrhoea may lead to severe complications and even contribute to the spread of the infection to others.
It is important to note that gonorrhoea does not spread through kissing, sharing towels, hugging, or using the same toilet as someone having the infection. Activities such as swimming in pools, sharing baths, and cutlery like cups and plates are also not known to cause the spread of this infection as these bacteria cannot survive outside of the human body for long.
Just like most other STIs, gonorrhoea can be prevented by following appropriate precautionary measures during sex such as:
Other than these, you can also undergo regular tests for STIs to assess your sexual health, especially if you have multiple partners. Also, keep in mind that contraceptive pills and the modes of contraception other than the barrier methods do not provide protection against gonorrhoea.
The symptoms of gonorrhoea often develop about 2 to 3 weeks after coming in contact with the source of infection. In some cases, patients may not develop any symptoms for several months.
It is estimated that about 1 in 10 men and 5 in 10 women infected with gonorrhoea do not experience any evident symptoms. This is one of the reasons why this condition often remains undetected in most patients.
The delayed diagnosis due to the absence of symptoms can cause the infection to spread to others as it prevents the person from taking necessary precautions. This marks the needs to get yourself tested regularly even if you do not have any symptoms.
Then common symptoms of gonorrhoea vary among men and women depending on the tissues affected.
Men and women may develop gonorrhoea in the rectum, eyes, and throat after having unprotected anal and oral sex.
When the infected semen or vaginal fluid comes in contact with your eyes, you may develop conjunctivitis. The symptoms, in this case, would be redness of the eyes, swelling, thick discharge from the eyes, and sticking of the eyelids to each other.
Gonorrhoea in the eyes of the babies may lead to pain, swelling, and irritation in the eyes with abnormal discharge. Newborn babies usually develop symptoms in the eyes within the first two weeks after birth.
Infection in the rectum may lead to pain, discomfort, and discharge from the anus. Patients who develop an infection in the throat may not experience any symptoms.
It’s important to get tested for gonorrhoea regularly, especially if you have multiple partners or when you think there is a possibility you are infected. Men and women should get themselves tested even if they do not have any obvious symptoms or when the symptoms have resolved on their own.
You should get tested for gonorrhoea if:
In most cases, a cotton swab is used to remove a sample of discharge from the vagina or the tip of the penis for testing in a laboratory.
The swab looks like a cotton bud, though it’s more rounded and smaller. It is gently wiped over the parts of the body that might be infected to pick up the samples of discharge. The procedure takes only a few seconds and causes no pain. Minimal discomfort may be felt during sample collection.
For women, the doctor may use a swab to collect the sample from the cervix or vagina. In some cases, the sample may be taken from the urethral opening. A urine sample is usually not needed to check for gonorrhoea in women as it is not a highly accurate test for them.
Men are usually asked to provide a sample of urine to test for gonorrhoea. A swab may be used to collect a sample of discharge from the tip of the penis. If you are asked to give a urine sample, do not urinate for at least 2 hours prior as it may wash away the bacteria and affect the result of the test.
In case you have developed symptoms in your eyes, rectum, or throat, the doctor may use a swab to get a sample from these parts.
The results of the gonorrhoea test are usually available within a few hours. Sometimes, patients have to wait for about 2 weeks to know the results.
Routine sexual health check-ups are recommended for all men and women who are sexually active. You can get a sexual health check done for tests like gonorrhoea, syphilis, HIV, and chlamydia once a year.
The frequency of these tests depends on your risk of developing STIs.
Men should get tested every 3 to 6 months if they have sex with men or have more than 1 partner.
Sexually active women should also get tested more frequently if they have multiple partners or when they have a new sexual partner because the symptoms of gonorrhoea may not be evident until serious complications like infertility and PID develop.
Gonorrhoea can be treated with a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics are recommended when:
In most cases, the treatment involves having an intramuscular injection of antibiotic, usually in the thighs or buttocks. This is followed by the use of oral antibiotics.
Patients can notice an improvement in the symptoms within a few days of using the antibiotics. It may take up to 14 days for the pain in your abdomen, pelvis, and testicles to resolve completely.
Symptoms like heavy flow and bleeding between periods might improve by the time you have next menstrual periods.
A follow-up appointment with your doctor about one or two weeks after the treatment is recommended to assess the improvement. Another test can be performed during the follow-up visit to check if the infection is cleared.
Patients are advised to avoid sex until they and their partners have been treated for gonorrhoea and the infection has been cleared. This can help to prevent the spread of infection and reduce the risk of re-infection.
If your symptoms do not subside even after the treatment or you have been re-infected, you may need further tests and treatments.
Untreated gonorrhoea can lead to serious complications, such as:
If detected and treated early, gonorrhoea is unlikely to cause any complications. It would ensure rapid improvement in the symptoms and enable the complete recovery of patients.
Gonorrhoea is not as easily treated as Chlamydia, but in comparison to the infection itself, it’s not so bad! You’ll need to take one course of antibiotics as specified in your Stigma Health test results, but you will also need to see a GP to get an injection of antibiotics. Again it’s really not that bad in comparison to the infection!
We are an online healthcare service that aims to make your life more convenient by eliminating the barriers like embarrassment and inconvenience, which often prevent people from undergoing simple medical tests. We started with STIs because they are a serious problem in Australia and are for the most part easily tested for and treated, but we will be expanding our service offering soon so stay tuned!