Gonorrhoea Fact Sheet
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What is gonorrhoea?
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmissible infection (STI), caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. It usually infects the genital area, but can also affect the throat, anus and eyes. Gonorrhoea affects both men and women.
Some strains, especially those overseas, are resistant to antibiotics. If a single strain is resistant to several different types of antibiotics, it is called a multi-drug-resistant (MDR) strain and can be much harder to treat.
You can be infected with gonorrhoea more than once, including with a more serious strain.
What are the symptoms of gonorrhoea?
Many people with gonorrhoea do not have any symptoms, but can still spread the infection.
If gonorrhoea is left untreated, the infection can worsen into more serious complications. If you have symptoms, consult your GP or sexual health clinic as soon as possible.
Symptoms can differ between women and men, and will usually develop between two and ten days after infection.
Symptoms in Women
Symptoms in women usually develop within ten days from infection. Symptoms include:
- unusual discharge from the vagina
- pain while urinating
- pain during sex
Complications of gonorrhoea in women include Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID is a serious condition and may cause a medical emergency and hospital admission. PID can cause:
- long term pain
- tubal pregnancy, also called ectopic pregnancy, a serious condition which can cause a medical emergency and long-term damage to the fallopian tubes
Symptoms in Men
Symptoms in men usually develop within one to three days from infection. Symptoms include:
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- a burning sensation while urinating
- white or yellow discharge from the penis
- pain in the testes
- redness near the opening of the penis
Complications in men can include:
- swelling and pain in the testicles
- a painful abscess in the penis
- reduced fertility or sterility
Symptoms in Both Men and Women
Throat infections may not cause any symptoms. Infections of the throat can cause:
- sore, dry throat
- pus on the tonsils
Infections of the anus can cause:
Eye infections (conjunctivitis) can result if the eyes are exposed. Children who have been infected through childbirth are vulnerable to eye infections. An untreated eye infection can develop to blindness.
How is gonorrhoea spread?
Gonorrhoea is spread through vaginal, anal or oral sexual activity with an infected person, even if the person has no symptoms.
Gonorrhoea can also be passed to a baby during childbirth, which may cause an eye infection in the baby and lead to blindness.
Who is at risk of catching gonorrhoea?
Anybody who is sexually active is at risk of becoming infected with gonorrhoea.
How is gonorrhoea prevented?
The best way to prevent gonorrhoea is to use barrier protection (such as condoms or dams), from start to finish of sexual activity, every time. This includes vaginal, anal and oral sexual activity.
How is gonorrhoea diagnosed?
Your GP or sexual health clinic can diagnose gonorrhoea by taking a urine sample or a swab.
How is gonorrhoea treated?
Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics.
Your GP will know the correct treatment to prescribe. It is important to tell your GP if you have travelled overseas. Resistant strains (including MDR strains) exist around the world and this information will assist your GP to determine treatment options.
If you are being treated for gonorrhoea, you should not engage in any sexual activity until your treatment has finished.
Should I tell my partner(s) if I have gonorrhoea?
Yes. You should tell all of your sexual partners from the last two months if you have been diagnosed with gonorrhoea.
The Let Them Know website provides advice about how to personally or anonymously inform your partner(s).
If you would like further information about gonorrhoea, or think you may be infected, we recommend you contact your GP or sexual health clinic.
More information about gonorrhoea, including an online symptom checker, is available from the healthdirect website.
State and territory health departments list local services that can provide further information or testing. Each state and territory website also has a comprehensive fact sheet about gonorrhoea.
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