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In order to keep yourself and your sexual partners safe and healthy it is important to get regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and sexually transmitted diseases (STD). It is also advisable that you are aware of how you can contract the different types of infections as well as their symptoms. In this guide we will be discussing the STI gonorrhoea, read on to find out more.

What is gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a STI caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria that belongs to the group of bacteria known as ‘gonococcus’. The bacteria are found in discharge from the penis and in vaginal fluids, and it is spread through unprotected sexual activity. In the past this infection was known as ‘the clap’, and it is one of the oldest known sexual infections, as well as one of the most commonly diagnosed STIs in England.

How do you catch gonorrhoea?

  • Through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex with someone who has the infection
  • Sharing sex toys that have not been washed or covered with a new condom every time they are used

Pregnant women can also pass the infection to their baby during childbirth, which can lead to permanent blindness if antibiotics are not administered quickly. New born babies tend to show symptoms in the first two weeks after they are born, their eyes can become red and swollen with a thick discharge. That’s why it is important for you to get tested and treated before your baby is born.

You can’t contract gonorrhoea through:

  • Kissing or hugging
  • Sharing baths or towels
  • Swimming in your local leisure centre pool
  • Toilet seats
  • Cutlery

The bacteria cannot survive outside of the human body for very long. If you have had gonorrhoea in the past and it was treated, you can still catch the STI again in the future.

Gonorrhoea symptoms

Many people who have gonorrhoea do not have any symptoms and therefore do not know that they are infected. That’s why it is important to get tested once a year or whenever you change sexual partners. Consult our gonorrhoea symptom guide for more information.


If left untreated gonorrhoea can lead to serious complications, that’s why it is best to get regularly tested even if there are no signs of infection. The longer you have gonorrhoea the more likely it is that you will have complications and fertility issues.

In women gonorrhoea can spread to the reproductive organs, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to chronic and long-term pelvic pain, a higher risk of life-threatening ectopic pregnancies and infertility issues.

In very rare causes the untreated infection can travel through the bloodstream resulting in life-threatening infections in parts of the body.

Diagnosis and testing

Gonorrhoea can be easily diagnosed by testing a sample of the discharge from the vagina or penis, collected with a swab. Or for men a sample of urine can also be used. These tests can be done in the comfort of your own home using our Online Doctor services and home testing kits. Or if you would prefer you can visit your GP, a GUM clinic or sexual health clinic for a face-to-face consultation.

Treatment is usually simple and effective; consult our gonorrhoea treatment guide to find out more.


The best way to protect yourself and your sexual partners is to practise safe sex, consult our prevention page for more details.

How do you get gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a sexual infection that is contracted through unprotected anal, vaginal and oral sex. It is advised that you use male or female condoms every time you have sex, as well as not sharing sex toys unless they have been cleaned or covered with a new condom.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhoea?

Many people can have the gonorrhoea infection without having any symptoms; however both men and women can experience painful urination as well as a yellow or green discharge from the tip of the penis or vagina.

How can I prevent myself getting gonorrhoea?

Practising safe sex by using a condom for sexual intercourse and activity is the most effective way of protecting yourself from infection.