It is most common in areas like the throat, vagina, penis, urethra (the tube that runs down the penis) and the arse.
Gonorrhoea affects both men and women and is usually passed on through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex, rimming or sharing toys, but it can also be passed on from a mother to her baby at birth. It can also move around the body; for example, if you scratch your genitals and then rub your eyes.
About 10% of men and 50% of women with gonorrhoea have no symptoms at all. Any symptoms that do occur should appear between one and fourteen days after infection. Gonorrhoea in the throat rarely shows symptoms in either men or women.
Boys need to look out for:
- White, yellow or green discharge from the tip of the penis, which can be quite strong smelling
- Pain when urinating
- Irritation or discharge from the bottom
- Inflammation of the testicles or prostate gland
Girls need to look out for:
- White, yellow or green discharge from the vagina, which can be quite strong smelling
- Pain when urinating
A urine sample may be taken, but usually swabs (like very small cotton buds) will be used to take samples from either the penis, vagina, bottom or throat.
Treatment is simple and effective and involves a single dose of antibiotics. This is followed by a second test a month later to make sure the infection has gone. If it hasn’t, another dose of antibiotics may be needed. It is important to avoid having sex until you get the ‘all clear’. Otherwise, as well as passing on the infection to people you have sex with, you’ll also keep on re-infecting yourself. It’s also important for your sexual partners to get checked too. If you’re a bit embarrassed about doing this or are finding it difficult to get in touch with your partners, the clinic where you get tested can help. They can contact people on your behalf and let them know without giving your name.
How to avoid it
Using condoms and dental dams for oral sex and rimming, and condoms with lots of water-based lubricant for anal and vaginal sex can help stop the infection from being passed on. To avoid re-infection, sexual partners should also be checked and treated if necessary.
You can find all this information in 'Sex education' - our guide to good sexual health for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
A favourite of the LGF team which has had several print incarnations. It is our most accessible sexual health resource and ideal for LGB people aged 14 upwards.