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Gonorrhoea is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Almost 46,000 people were diagnosed with it last year in the UK. It is also one of the fastest growing STIs as the number of diagnoses was 22% higher than for the previous year. Could you tell if you were infected with this common STI?
The symptoms usually appear within a couple of weeks of being infected, but it can take longer.
The most common symptoms of gonorrhoea in women are:
The symptoms of gonorrhoea in men usually include:
Gonorrhoea can also infect the throat, eyes or rectum. A throat infection won’t usually cause any noticeable symptoms, but a rectal infection will usually cause pain and discharge. If infected body fluids come in contact with your eyes, gonorrhoea can cause irritation, discharge and pain.
However, it’s important to be aware that gonorrhoea doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms. About 1 in 10 men and 5 in 10 women won’t experience symptoms when they are infected. Even if you seem healthy, gonorrhoea can still cause serious complications.
The risks are particularly high for women, who can develop pelvic inflammatory disease or fertility problems as a result of gonorrhoea. The infection can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and it can cause serious health problems including blindness in the baby.
The best way to prevent the spread of gonorrhoea is to use a condom. Both male and female condoms can protect against gonorrhoea. You should also be aware of the symptoms and avoid having sex if you suspect that you or your partner might have an STI.
Get tested if you think that you might be affected. Gonorrhoea can usually be treated with antibiotics. You will usually only need a single dose, taken as a tablet or an injection. Additional treatment may be needed if there are any complications.
It is particularly important to protect yourself against STIs like gonorrhoea because some of these bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics that we use to treat them. Although it is still possible to treat most strains of gonorrhoea, there are some super-gonorrhoea bacteria that can’t be treated with the most common drugs. It can be much harder to find an antibiotic that will work on these bacteria, but it is very easy to prevent yourself from catching gonorrhoea with condoms.
You can also protect yourself and your partner by getting screened for STIs. Gonorrhoea doesn’t always cause obvious symptoms, so you could be infected even if you haven’t noticed anything wrong.