Updated 06 July 2016

10 facts you should know about gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is one of the most dangerous sexually transmitted infections and can cause lifelong problems if not treated in time. Here are 10 facts about the condition.

Since the early eighties the spotlight has been on HIV/Aids to such an extent that the relatively long list of other sexually transmitted diseases and infections has paled by comparison.

Most common STIs

Before that time the word on everyone’s lips was (genital) herpes, and the big concern was that unlike true love “herpes was forever”, referring to the fact that once you had it you could never entirely get rid of it, and recurring outbreaks were virtually guaranteed. 

Read: Viagra ads fuelling STIs?

The 10 most common STIs are:

  • Gonorrhoea
  • Hepatitis
  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia
  • Crabs (pubic lice)
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
  • Herpes
  • Trichomoniasis  
  • HIV/Aids

HPV is the most common, and HIV/Aids, syphilis and gonorrhoea are the most dangerous. The least dangerous and easiest to get rid of is crabs – a special shampoo from one's nearest pharmacy usually does the trick.

Read: Ageing swingers risking gonorrhoea


1. Gonorrhoea is an infection of the genital tract in men and women. It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonococcus). Colloquially it is known as “the clap”.

2. Gonorrhoea is spread between people by means of genital, oral or anal sex. Gonorrhoea bacteria grow in the reproductive tract, especially in the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes in women, and in the urethra, mouth, throat and anus in both men and women.    

3. Gonorrhoea cannot be spread by normal physical contact, nor can it be picked up from toilet seats, sharing eating utensils or swimming pools because the bacteria cannot survive outside the body for very long.

4. Gonorrhoea symptoms usually become apparent within fourteen days of infection, but many people may not show any obvious symptoms.   

5. Symptoms include:

In women:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Heavier periods and bleeding between periods

In men: 

  • A white, yellow or green discharge from the penis
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Inflammation of the foreskin
  • Swollen testicles

In both men and women:

  • Infection in the rectum, eyes or throat
  • Conjunctivitis

6. If gonorrhoea is not treated it may cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women and infertility in both men and women. Untreated gonorrhoea may also make you more susceptible to HIV/Aids.  

Read: 19 million new STIs each year

7. To determine if you have gonorrhoea, your doctor will take a swab (from the urethra in men or the cervix in women) or do a urine test. This will be sent to a lab for analysis. Specimens may also be taken from the throat, rectum, eye or joints.

8. To treat gonorrhoea, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics (e.g. azithromycin and doxycycline). A follow-up test may be done to check if the infection has indeed been cured. Treatment is usually effective if the disease is treated promptly, but may cause lifelong complications if not diagnosed and addressed in time.

9. To avoid getting infected with gonorrhoea (or any other STI), practise safe sex by using male and/or female condoms with a water-based lubricant or by abstaining from sex altogether. If you have been diagnosed with gonorrhoea, you are morally responsible to let all your sexual partners of the last six months know so that they can also be tested for the disease.

10. A highly drug-resistant “super gonorrhoea” has emerged (in conjunction with other "superbugs") in Britain where this rare strain was detected in 15 people in 2015. The number has since risen to 34 and doctors are very concerned that the strain might become untreatable if it no longer responds to any antibiotic. Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United Kingdom after chlamydia. 

Read: Gonorrhoea may become untreatable

According to the WHO, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan have already reported treatment failures with oral cephalosporin, which is currently used in the last-line treatment of gonorrhoea.

Read more:

Changing face of gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea ups cancer risk

Gonorrhoea the next superbug


Active Beat: The 10 Most Common STDs.

STD Guide Online Version (STD GOV) Blog: Top 5 Most Dangerous STDs.

NHS CHoices:Gonorrhoea.

SA Health: Gonorrhoea – including symptoms, treatment and prevention.

Australian Government Department of Health: Gonorrhoea.

NHS Choices: Gonorrhoea – Symptoms.

The Telegraph: 'Super-gonorrhoea' is spreading across Britain and will become untreatable, doctors fear.




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