Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus.
The bacteria are mainly found in discharge from the penis and in vaginal fluid.
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're used
The bacteria can infect the cervix (entrance to the womb), the urethra (tube through which urine passes out of the body), the rectum, and less commonly the throat or eyes.
Gonorrhoea isn't spread by kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels, swimming pools, toilet seats, or sharing cups, plates & cutlery, because the bacteria can't survive outside the human body for long.
Signs and symptoms
Typical symptoms of gonorrhoea include:
- a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis
- pain when urinating
- bleeding between periods (in women)
However, around 1 in 10 infected men and almost half of infected women don't experience any symptoms.
If you have any of symptoms or you're worried you may have an STI you can pop along to one of our drop-in clinics and get tested. Download our clinic timetable.
If you have symptoms, like a discharge, we may take a sample from you and have a look at it under the microscope. Often, if we can determine the infection is gonorrhoea we can provide treatment* there and then.
*microscopy is only available at some clinics.
If you just want to be tested for gonorrhoea, we can test you using the same sample as a chlamydia test, often a urine or self-taken swab.
If you are MSM the best test for gonorrhoea is a rectal and throat swab.
If you have any questions or concerns you can call our team on 0151 514 6464.
Gonorrhoea is usually treated with a single antibiotic injection and four oral antibiotic tablets. With effective treatment, most of your symptoms should improve within a few days.
It's usually recommended that you attend a follow-up appointment a week or two after treatment, so another test can be carried out to see if you're clear of infection.
You should avoid having sex until you've been given the all-clear.
Gonorrhoea and other STIs can help be prevented by:
- using male condoms or female condoms every time you have vaginal sex or male condoms during anal sex
- using a condom to cover the penis or a latex or plastic square (dam) to cover the female genitals, if you have oral sex
- not sharing sex toys or washing them and covering them with a new condom before anyone else uses them
Download the Family Planning Association gonorrhoea leaflet.