What you Need to Know About Gonorrhoea
Gonorrhoea is the name of a sexually transmitted infection, once known simply as “the clap”, that is the result of bacteria referred to as Neisseria gonorrhoeae, aka gonococcus. The bacteria are primarily located in fluid from the vagina and in penis discharge.
Gonorrhoea can be easily passed between individuals who have unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex, and between those who share sex toys such as vibrators, that are not covered with a different condom, or are left unwashed between uses. The bacteria often infect the entrance to the womb called the cervix, as well as the rectum and the urethra, and in some rare instances can even infect the eyes or the throat.
A pregnant woman can also pass on the infection to her baby, so if you are pregnant and believe you may have the infection it is vital to get tested and receive treatment prior to the birth of your child, as gonorrhoea can actually result in permanent blindness to a newborn child if left untreated. Despite some myths to the contrary it is not possible to catch gonorrhoea from kissing, sharing towels or baths, toilet seats, hugging, swimming pools, or sharing cutlery, cups and plates, due to the fact that the bacteria are unable to survive for very long outside of the body.
Symptoms and signs
Standard symptoms of a gonorrhoea infection include a thick yellow or green discharge from the penis or the vagina, bleeding in between periods for women, and pain during urination. However, the reality is that almost fifty percent of all women with the infection, and around one in ten men, do not suffer from any symptoms at all and may therefore be unaware of their condition.
If you believe you may have contracted an STI or are suffering from gonorrhoea symptoms, then it is important to visit an STI clinic in order to get a sexual health test. In some instances it is also possible to get tested online or people who are either unable to visit a real clinic, or too embarrassed to do so. It is easy to diagnose gonorrhoea by using a swab to pick up a sample of discharge and then test it. Men can also make use of a urine sample to diagnose the condition. It is crucial to get tested as quickly as you are able, as a failure to treat gonorrhoea can result in long term and much more serious health problems.
The normal treatment for gonorrhoea is a single antibiotic tablet and one injection of antibiotics. The great majority of symptoms should begin to improve quickly, within just a few days of receiving the correct treatment. It is a good idea to go to a follow-up appointment within a couple of weeks of the treatment, so that another test can be conducted in order to ensure that the infection has been cleared up. It is important to avoid sexual contact with anyone else until you have received confirmation that you no longer carry the infection. Being successfully treated for gonorrhoea does not mean that you cannot contract the infection again.
Who is at risk?
Gonorrhoea can be contracted by anyone who is sexually active, but people who regularly change partners or fail to use a condom or other barrier methods of contraception are the most at risk. After chlamydia, gonorrhoea is the most common form of bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United Kingdom, with nearly thirty five thousand cases reported in 2014, mostly affecting men and women below the age of twenty five.
There are a number of precautions, including the use of appropriate forms of contraception, that can help to prevent the contracting of gonorrhoea as well as other sexually transmitted infections, including:
• The use of male and female condoms during vaginal sex, and male condoms while engaging in anal sex
• Avoiding sharing sex toys or using appropriate precautions such as cleaning them and having them covered with a new condom
• Covering the penis with a condom or the female genitals with a plastic or latex square during oral sex
Call a sexual health clinic, or visit an online STI clinic for advice if you believe you may have a sexually transmitted infection.