Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria. It is the second most commonly reported bacterial STI in the UK after chlamydia and can lead to infertility in men and women.
There are approximately 1,000 cases of gonorrhoea diagnosed in Wales each year. Globally there is concern over increasing cases where gonorrhoea is resistant to many commonly used antibiotics.
The World Health Organization has warned that untreatable strains of gonorrhoea are on the rise, with a number of confirmed cases reported in which antibiotics were ineffective.
It is found most frequently in young people under the age of 25 years and in men who have sex with men. However, this may, in part, reflect those who access testing.
About 1 in 10 infected men and half of infected women experience no symptoms, but if left untreated the disease can cause infertility and, in pregnant women, puts babies at risk of blindness.
Symptoms of gonorrhoea usually develop within about two weeks of being infected, although they sometimes don't appear until many months later. Symptoms can include yellow or green discharge, a burning feeling when peeing and pain or tenderness in the tummy.
Gonorrhoea spreads through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex, as well as through the sharing of sex toys that have not been washed properly or covered with a new condom.
Always use a condom. You can get free condoms from the sexual health clinic. Condoms are the best way to protect yourself and others from gonorrhoea and other STIs, including HIV. If you haven’t liked using condoms in the past try different ones, there are many different varieties now designed to increase pleasure and sensation.
Get regularly tested for gonorrhoea if you have more than one sexual partner. Talk to your doctor about your sex life and how often you should be tested for gonorrhoea (and other STIs).
If you’ve had gonorrhoea once, you can get it again – and again. That’s why it’s important to get tested regularly, especially if you have a lot of casual sex.
You should go and get advice from your GP or at your local sexual health clinic.
NHS Direct Wales has extensive information on its website: NHS Direct Wales - gonorrhoea. You can also seek advice from your GP or at your local sexual health clinic.
Yes. People who get gonorrhoea, often also have HIV or are more likely to get HIV in the future. One reason is the behaviours that put someone at risk for one infection (not using condoms, multiple partners, anonymous partners) often put them at risk for other infections. Also, a sore or inflammation from an STI may allow infection with HIV that would have been stopped by intact skin.
The best place to get tested for gonorrhoea is in any of the integrated sexual health services. Information on where your local integrated sexual health services are can be found at NHS Direct Wales.
In addition, gonorrhoea self-testing kits are available online and on the high street. Before using a self-test kit, make sure it has a CE quality assurance mark. This means that, provided you use it correctly, the kit will work properly and is safe.
No self-test kit is 100% reliable, and a CE mark is still no guarantee that a particular home test is suitable for you. If you do a self-test for gonorrhoea and the result is positive, it's important that you contact a health professional as soon as possible and get the emotional and medical support you need.