Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection which is colloquially referred to as "the clap". It is increasingly common in the UK, particularly among younger age groups (16-19 for women and 20-24 for men). It can be transmitted via unprotected sexual contact with an infected partner.
Although it is easily treatable with antibiotics, it is often left untreated, as a number of people infected do not experience any symptoms, especially women. If you are having unprotected sex, it is important to be tested for gonorrhoea as it can lead to more serious medical conditions if left untreated.
Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that can be cured completely with a course of treatment. However please note that we are not offering treatment for gonorrhoea at this time due to a resistant strain across certain areas of the UK. If you think you may have gonorrhoea, it is important that you visit a Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) clinic or sexual health clinic. To find your nearest clinic, you can visit the NHS resources online. They can test and treat gonorrhoea effectively with the recommended treatment.
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It is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus, and can be found present in semen and penis discharge as well as vaginal fluid. It spreads through sexual contact without a condom, including vaginal, anal and oral sex as well as sharing sex toys. Pregnant women may also pass it to the baby during childbirth. It is still unclear whether the bacteria can be transferred on fingers or during female-to-female genital contact.
Symptoms usually appear within a week of infection, but this isn't always the case, as often symptoms will appear months or years later, once the infection has spread. In addition, one in 10 men and around half of all women will not experience any symptoms at all.
The most common symptoms in women include unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge, pain when urinating and abdominal pain. Men are more likely to suffer symptoms and these can include unusual discharge from the penis, pain when urinating, inflammation of the foreskin and pain in the testicles or prostate.
Most cases which are treated early do not present any complications. However, if left untreated it can spread to other parts of the body and lead to serious health problems in the long term.
Women who leave it untreated are at risk of the infection spreading to the reproductive organs and causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to chronic pelvic pain, complications during pregnancy and infertility. Untreated gonorrhoea in men can cause infections of the testicles and prostate, which can be extremely painful and reduce fertility.
In rare cases, the infection can spread to other parts of the body, causing skin rashes and inflammation of the joints and tendons or even inflammation around the brain, spinal cord or heart, which can be fatal.
The infection has been typically treated with antibiotics, such as a combination of Azithromycin and Cefixime. Over the years, the bacteria has grown resistant to a number of antibiotics which have traditionally been used to cure gonorrhoea, such as penicillin. That's why taking two antibiotics together in a single powerful dose is often the most effective way of treating the infection. However an additional strain is present in certain areas of the UK that reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics orally administered. At 121doc, our partner doctors recommend heading to the sexual health clinic for the gonorrhoea injection over taking the antibiotics. You can still take Azithromycin for a number of other bacterial infections including chlamydia.
Whilst Azithromycin and Cefixime in the gonorrhoea pack can be effective, due to the resistant strain of the virus, the recommended treatment is the gonorrhoea injection administered at a sexual health clinic and certain doctor surgeries.