Gonorrhoea is not that common. It’s very infectious, easy to test for but is getting harder to treat.

Here’s the more general guide to STIs

Gonorrea, gonnorrhoea, gonorrhoea (I’ll be testing you at the end) is a bacterial infection we get from unprotected sex.

How we get gonorrhoea

We can only get it from having sex with someone who already has it. It’s very infectious and is easy to catch from having sex without condoms. Particularly penis in vagina or penis in anus sex but also from oral sex and sharing sex toys. The bacteria (germs) are present in semen and vaginal juices. So this means although gonorrhoea is not that common (around 0.1% of people have it) there can be outbreaks of it in local areas.

How do we know we have it

The only reliable way of finding out if we have it is by going for a check up (more on this below). This is because (as with most STIs) it often does not have any symptoms. This means we can feel totally fine, healthy, well, horny and still have gonorrhoea.

For when symptoms do happen they might include*:

  • any discharge from the penis. So any liquid at the tip of the penis which isn’t wee, cum or pre-cum. This is one of the more likely symptoms.
  • unusual vaginal discharge (remember all vaginas have discharge (whiteish liquid which comes from the vagina, more on this here), but if it’s an unusual colour or smell or more of it than usual it could be a sign of chlamydia),
  • pain when peeing (unusual tingling or burning)
  • pain in the lower stomach (for some women) or painfully swollen testicles (for some men)
  • bleeding between periods
  • painful sex

(*Some of these symptoms can be a sign of other things though)

How do we get tested for gonorrhoea?

It’s now really easy to get tested. There are loads of clinics that offer gonorrhoea testing as well as other check ups. Also many local areas now are able to send out free chlamydia testing kits directly to you (particularly if you are under 24), sometimes when they are checking for chlamydia they also check for gonorrhoea at the same time, see if your area does that here.

Find out more about sexual health services (and your nearest clinic).

The tests involve:

  • a urine test if you have a penis. This involves peeing into a pot in the loo (not in front of the nurse/doctor, that would be weird). It’s important to not pee at least an hour before and to collect the first bit of pee as it comes out of the penis.
  • a sample from the tip of the penis if you have discharge. They use a very small thin swab for this.
  • a sample from inside the vagina (if you have a vagina) using something that is a bit like a cotton bud (known as a swab). You’re often able to do this yourself in the loo if you like, it’s dead easy, just place the swab in the vagina and stir it around a bit – the nurse/doctor will explain.

Everything will be explained before hand and you won’t be forced into doing anything you don’t want.

Gonorrhoea is less easy to treat than chlamydia because many types of the infection are resistant to the antibiotics. So treatment might now be an injection of antibiotics (in the hip). It’s important that during treatment, and for 7 days after, we avoid entry sex (eg penis in vagina) and that whoever we have had sex with also gets treatment. It’s really easy to catch it again from someone even after treatment. All tests and treatment are free in the UK.

Remember all clinics are confidential**, so it’s your choice whether you tell your parents or not.

(** so long as you or someone else are not at a serious and immediate risk of harm)

Um, will it go away by itself?

It can, but it’s unlikely. The main problem with gonorrhoea (and why we need to stop people getting it) is that it can lead to longer term health problems – mainly Pelvic Inflammatory Disease which can cause fertility problems and problematic dangerous pregnancies. So it’s best to get treatment if you can.

How to avoid getting it

We can reduce the risk of getting it by:

  • Always use condoms for vaginal, anal or oral sex. (it’s important that the condom goes on (or in) before any contact)
  • Avoid sharing sex toys.
  • Having non-entry sex
  • Only having entry sex with someone that has had the ‘all clear’

Do leave a comment below if you have anything you’d like to add or if you have questions. I moderate all comments before they go live. Click here to ask me a question

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© Justin Hancock, 2022

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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Find out more about Justin here

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