What is gonorrhoea?
Sometimes known as ‘the clap’, gonorrhoea is a common sexually transmitted infection that affects the genitals, rectum and throat.
It’s caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoea which loves to live in the moist mucosal tissue in the rectum, vagina, urethra and throat.
Gonorrhoea is spread mainly by unprotected anal, vaginal and oral sex, It can also be spread by sex toys so make sure you wash your toys or use a condom on them if sharing them with a partner.
Gonorrhoea can also be transmitted during vaginal birth and cause permanent blindness in newborns. If you are pregnant, make sure you get tested so it can be treated beforehand.
What are the symptoms of gonorrhoea?
For many people, gonorrhoea has no symptoms. This means that it can be super easy to miss and pass on to others.
The most common symptoms include:
- Burning or painful urination
- Discharge from the penis that can be yellow, white or green
- Abnormal or increased vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding between periods
- Itching and/or discharge from the anus
- Anal bleeding and soreness
- Pain when passing stools
- Swollen and painful testicles
- Sore and/or red throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
It’s super important to get regularly tested if you are sexually active since most of the time gonorrhoea shows no symptoms.
For people with vaginas gonorrhoea symptoms can easily be mistaken for a UTI or bladder infection.
If left untreated, gonorrhoea infection can lead to serious and long-term complications like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can cause infertility.
How do I get tested?
There is a bunch of different ways you can get tested for gonorrhoea (since it can be found in multiple places).
The most common way is with a urine sample. This will detect urethral or vaginal gonorrhoea.
If you’ve had oral sex, you will want an oral swab.
If you’ve had anal sex, you will want to get a rectal swab. Don’t worry, you get to do this yourself.
While you’re wait for results to come back, it’s wise to abstain from having sex, especially if you have symptoms or are the contact of someone with gonorrhoea.
Getting treated for gonorrhoea
If the test result comes back as positive, just remember that there is no shame in getting gonorrhoea. Just like everything in life, sex comes with its risks and bacterium like gonorrhoea are just an unfortunate part of it.
What matters is staying on top of it and managing it early to help stop the spread through our community.
Like other bacterial infections, it is treated by using antibiotics which may be administered once-off, either orally or by injection.
In Australia, there have been several cases of multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea, meaning the first line of antibiotic treatment has not worked. If this is the case with you, it means you may need to take a different antibiotic or a longer course to deal with the infection. Your clinician will support you with that.
It’s important to remember that you don’t get immunity from gonorrhoea after it’s treated and you again if you aren’t careful. All the more reason to test frequently and practice safe sex with barrier methods like condoms and dams.
How often should I get tested?
It really depends on how sexually active you are and there is no perfect answer.
We recommend testing for gonorrhoea and other STIs as often as every three months if you are sexually active with multiple partners.
For other people it might be every six months, annually or at the start (or end) of a relationship.
With regular testing we can help to stop multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea establishing itself in Australia and protect ourselves and our sexual partners.
Visit your GP or M Clinic for a complete and judgement-free sexual health check-up.
If you have questions about gonorrhoea or other STIs, reach out to us.