Gonorrhoea is caused by bacteria called neisseria gonorrhoea or gonococcus.

Gonorrhoea is easily passed between people through:

  • unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex;
  • sharing vibrators or other sex toys that haven't been washed or covered with a new condom each time they are used; and
  • can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby.

Gonorrhoea is not spread by kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels, swimming pools, toilet seats, or sharing cups, plates and cutlery.


About 1 in 10 infected men and half of infected women will not experience any obvious symptoms, which means it can go untreated for some time.

Symptoms can include:

  • an unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
  • pain or a burning sensation when peeing
  • inflammation (swelling) of the foreskin
  • pain or tenderness in the testicles (this is rare)
  • pain or tenderness in the lower abdominal
  • bleeding between periods, heavier periods and bleeding after sex
  • infection can develop in the rectum, eyes or throat if infected semen or vaginal fluid comes into contact with that area

Getting tested

In many cases a swab will be used to remove a sample for testing, although men may be asked to provide a urine sample.

A swab looks a bit like a cotton bud, but it's smaller and rounded. It is wiped over parts of the body that may be infected to pick up samples of discharge. This only takes a few seconds and is not painful, although it may be a little uncomfortable.

How is gonorrhoea treated?

Gonorrhoea is usually treated with a course of antibiotics.

Attending a follow-up appointment a week or two after treatment is usually recommended so that another test can be carried out to see if you are clear of infection.

Protecting myself and others

  • Wear a condom when having vaginal, anal or oral sex.
  • Avoid using sex toys.
  • Avoid having sex until you (and your partner) have been treated and given the all-clear.
  • Sexual partners should also be treated.
  • If untreated, gonorrhoea can infect other reproductive organs in men and women and affect fertility.

Do you have symptoms or want to be tested?

If you have symptoms you should get yourself tested to avoid infection developing and from transferring it to someone else.

Call 0300 008 5522 to book an appointment at one of our clinics.

Find your nearest clinic

For more information on gonorrhoea visit ...

NHS Choices logo


FPA logo test