The main points
- Gonorrhoea can infect the cervix (top part of vagina), urethra (where urine comes out), rectum (anal passage), throat and occasionally the eyes.
- Most people with gonorrhoea in the cervix, rectum or throat, do not know because they don't have symptoms.
- The test is to pee in a jar or swab from vagina, penis, anus or throat.
- Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics - an injection and a dose of tablets.
What is gonorrhoea?
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmissible infection (STI) caused by bacteria. It can infect the cervix (top part of vagina), urethra (where urine comes out), rectum (anal passage), throat and occasionally the eyes.
How do you get gonorrhoea?
Gonorrhoea is mainly passed on during unprotected sexual contact with someone who has gonorrhoea. Sexual contact may be vaginal, anal or oral sex. Gonorrhoea can also be passed on by touching the genitals with fingers (if infected fluids on hand) or sharing sex toys.
Gonorrhoea can affect anyone who is sexually active. It can be passed on whether your sexual partner/s are the same sex as you or a different sex.
How do I know if I have gonorrhoea?
Regular STI testing is the best way to know if you have gonorrhoea.
Most people with gonorrhoea in the cervix, rectum or throat, do not know because they do not have symptoms.
If you have a penis, symptoms include:
- unusual yellow or white discharge (fluid) from the penis
- difficulty or pain (discomfort, stinging or burning) during urination (peeing)
- redness at the opening of the penis
- testicular pain.
Some people may have symptoms such as:
- smelly or unusual discharge (fluid) from the vagina or anus
- abnormal or irregular bleeding from the vagina (especially after sex)
- difficulty or pain (discomfort, stinging or burning) during urination (peeing)
- pelvic (lower abdomen) pain
- rectal (anal passage) pain
- pain during sex
What does a test involve?
Testing for gonorrhoea is simple. Usually, you can choose to pee in a small jar or use a cotton swab to collect a sample from your vagina, penis, anus and/or throat.
Sexual Health Victoria (SHV) provides expert, confidential STI and BBV testing to Victorians. We also provide expert information, healthcare and support on a range of reproductive and sexual health matters. For more information on SHV clinical services, see our clinics or you can book an appointment online.
How is gonorrhoea treated?
Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics. This is usually an injection and a single dose of tablets. Sometimes gonorrhoea is resistant to certain antibiotics and you may need a different course or a longer course of antibiotics.
If you have gonorrhoea in the cervix, rectum or throat, it is recommended you have a repeat test 2 weeks after you have finished your treatment, to check the treatment has worked.
If you have symptoms and your doctor or nurse thinks they are most likely to be caused by gonorrhoea, you may be offered treatment before your test results come back.
It is recommended you avoid sexual contact or use barrier protection (external condoms, internal condoms or dental dams) for 7 days after you have been treated or until you (and your current sexual partner/s) have finished treatment.
Where do I get treatment?
Your doctor or nurse will give you the antibiotics or a script which you can take to the pharmacy. You cannot buy medications to treat gonorrhoea over the counter without a script. You will need to return to the clinic to have the injection.
What if I don't get treated?
Gonorrhoea can cause health complications if not treated.
Untreated gonorrhoea could lead to:
- infertility (inability for you or your sexual partner/s to become pregnant).
- passing the infection to your sexual partner/s — even if you do not have symptoms.
- increased risk of getting or spreading other sexually transmissible infections.
Will gonorrhoea come back?
Gonorrhoea is cured by effective treatment, but you do not develop any immunity. It is possible to get another gonorrhoea infection.
To avoid being reinfected with gonorrhoea it is recommended you avoid sexual contact or use barrier protection (external condoms, internal condoms or dental dams) for 7 days after you (and your current sexual partner/s) have finished treatment.
It is recommended you have a repeat gonorrhoea test 3 months after you have finished your treatment. This test will check that you have not been reinfected.
Do I need to let my sexual partner/s know I have gonorrhoea?
If you have been diagnosed with gonorrhoea it is recommended you let your sexual partner/s know so they can make informed decisions about ways to lower the risk of passing it on, be tested and treated. If your current sexual partner/s are not treated, you could end up with gonorrhoea again.
It is recommended you contact any sexual partner/s you have had in the last 2 months (as a minimum timeframe).
There are some great websites to support you informing your sexual partners via a phone call, text message, letter or email. There are ways of doing this either personally or anonymously.
- Let Them Know
- The Drama Downunder - for men who have sex with men
- Better to know – for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Your doctor or nurse can assist with informing your current or previous sexual partner/s.
What should I do if a sexual partner of mine has been diagnosed with an STI?
You may be notified that a sexual partner has been diagnosed with an STI or a BBV. Notification may be in person or via a phone call, text message, letter or email. You may have an infection too and be unaware as you may not have symptoms. See your doctor or nurse to discuss ways to lower the chances of passing it on, get tested and treated.
Will gonorrhoea affect my pregnancy or breastfeeding?
People who are pregnant or breastfeeding can be infected with the same STIs and BBVs as people who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you are infected with an STI or BBV during pregnancy it can cause serious health complications for both you and your baby. Complications can include:
- Infection in the uterus (womb) after birth.
- Passing on the infection to the baby (during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding) causing health conditions.
- Premature (early) birth.
If you are planning a pregnancy or already pregnant, it is recommended you and your sexual partner/s have STI and BBV screening tests, even if you have been tested in the past. You can speak to your doctor, nurse or midwife for more information.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and considering treatment for an STI or BBV, ask your doctor, nurse, or midwife about the possible effects of the treatment and/or medicine on your baby or breastfeeding. Gonorrhoea treatment is usually safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding.
How can I lower my risk of getting STIs and BBVs?
You can lower your risk of getting STIs and BBVs by using barrier protection (external condoms, internal condomsinternal condoms or dental dams) correctly during any type of sex (vaginal, anal or oral sex) and when sharing sex toys.
Barrier protection is not 100% effective at preventing STIs and BBVs.
You can also lower your risk of getting a BBV by:
- not sharing injecting equipment, razors, nail clippers
- only getting tattoos and piercing in regulated places
- talking to your doctor or nurse about HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if you are at risk of HIV exposure.
You can also lower your risk of getting an STI or BBV by both you and your sexual partners having regular STI and BBV testing. To get an STI or BBV test at Sexual Health Victoria, see our clinics or you can book an appointment online.
Where to get more information and support
- Sexual Health Victoria
- Better Health Channel
- The Centre Clinic – a safe and friendly general practice, providing care for LGBTI community members as well as specialist medical care for people living with HIV, and expert sexual health screening and treatment.
- DirectLine 1800 888 236 – support for people affected by alcohol and other drugs including information on where to obtain new needles and syringes.
- Equinox – for transgender services
- Headspace – for young people
- Melbourne Sexual Health Centre – a specialist sexual health clinic.
- Minus 18 – for young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
- Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health – for culturally and linguistically diverse women.
- PRONTO! – a peer-led service for men who have sex with men.
- Thorne Harbour Health (formerly Victorian AIDS Council)
- TouchBase – information, support and services for LGBTI people.
- A doctor or nurse.
- Your local community health service
If you are using the internet for information, only use reliable and reputable websites. Be aware of websites containing inaccurate and harmful information and imagery.