WHAT I GONORRHOEA?
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmissible infection (STI) which is caused by a bacterium called neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can infect the urethra, throat, cervix, anus, and (rarely) the eyes.
HOW DO YOU CATCH GONORRHOEA?
Gonorrhoea is passed on during oral, vaginal, or anal sex without condoms.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms will depend on where the infection is. Up to 80% of people with a vaginal infection will have no symptoms at all. In people with an infection in the penis most will have symptoms, only about 10-15% will not have symptoms. Symptoms are very uncommon with a throat or anal infection.
When symptoms are present they can include:
- Thick, yellow, or white discharge from the penis
- Redness around the opening of the penis
- Pain or discomfort passing urine
- Anal discharge and discomfort
- Irregular vaginal bleeding (between periods or after sex)
- Pelvic pain, especially during sex
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Eye symptoms-pain, redness, discharge
If gonorrhoea is untreated in people with a vagina it can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which is infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes. PID may lead to infertility and chronic pelvic pain.
HOW LONG AFTER I HAVE BEEN INFECTED CAN SYMPTOMS DEVELOP?
The majority of symptoms of a penile infection develop within 1-3 days. If anyone with a vaginal infection does develop symptoms, they usually do so within 10 days.
HOW CAN YOU TEST FOR GONORRHOEA?
Gonorrhoea can be tested for very easily. For people with a penis this is a simple urine test. For people with a vagina this is a self-collected vaginal swab. And a self-collected swab from the anus if you have had anal sex.
In some circumstances a swab may also be taken from the throat. If you have symptoms you will need an examination and a swab taken from the penis, cervix, or anus. Gonorrhoea can occur with other STIs such as chlamydia, and tests for these can also be done at the same time.
WHEN SHOULD YOU HAVE A TEST FOR GONORRHOEA?
You should have a test for gonorrhoea if:
- You have ever had unprotected sex
- You have had a new sexual partner since your last test
- You have a sexual partner who has been diagnosed as having gonorrhoea or another STI
- Your sexual partner has had sex with a person who could be infected with gonorrhoea
- You have been diagnosed with another STI
- You have any signs or symptoms of gonorrhoea (see above)
HOW IS GONORRHOEA TREATED?
Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics. This is usually an injection of an antibiotic called ceftriaxone, together with an oral antibiotic called azithromycin.
You will need to avoid sex completely for seven days after treatment.
You also need to avoid sex with a partner for seven days after they have been treated. This is to avoid becoming re-infected.
There is some evidence that gonorrhoea may be developing resistance to the antibiotics commonly used to treat it. This makes preventing infection and having regular testing even more important.
SHOULD I TELL ANY SEXUAL PARTNERS?
Yes, it is very important to let your sexual partner/s in the last two months know so that they can be tested and treated. This should include anyone that you have had oral, vaginal, or anal sex with, even if you used a condom, as well anyone you have had any genital-to-genital contact with. There are several ways to let partners know: this is usually best done directly, in person, with a phone call, or with a text message.
There are also websites that you can use to send an anonymous email or text message such as Let Them Know(for anyone) orThe Drama Downunder(for gay men or men who have sex with men). Your doctor or nurse can give you more information and assist you with this.
HOW CAN I AVOID CATCHING GONORRHOEA?
Using condoms or dams every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex is the best way to prevent gonorrhoea. Get tested for sexually transmissible infections regularly and make sure that any new partners have also been tested.
If you have been diagnosed and treated for gonorrhoea, notifying partners is also very important in order to prevent re-infection. If you meet partners online or at sex on premises venues the risk of infection is higher so always make sure you use a condom.
WHERE TO GO FOR INFO AND TESTING
Sexual Health & Family Planning ACT
- Level,1 28 University Avenue Canberra ACT
- 02 6247 3077
• Canberra Sexual Health Centre
- Canberra Hospital
- 8 Level 4, Garran ACT 2605
- 02 6244 2184
• Your GP or local Health Centre
If you are diagnosed with a sexually transmissible infection (STI), it is important to be checked for other STIs such as chlamydia. Your partners should also be notified, checked and treated if required. Be sure to have another test after treatment to make sure it has been cleared up.
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