Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted disease that can infect the throat, genitals or anus. This STI can infect men and women equally through anal, oral or vaginal sex. The cause of gonorrhoea is a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. 

Symptoms of gonorrhoea

Women usually do not get symptoms, but they may differ from men’s in the following ways.

Male symptoms of gonorrhoea

  • Burning when urinating
  • Yellow or white discharge from the penis
  • Sore or swollen testicles (rarer)

Female symptoms of gonorrhoea

  • Burning or pain while urinating, can feel like a UTI
  • More vaginal discharge than usual
  • Bleeding between periods (unusual mid-cycle bleeding)
  • Foul-smelling discharge

Anal symptoms (everyone) of gonorrhoea

  • Anal discharge of any kind
  • Itchy anus
  • Soreness
  • Bleeding anus
  • Painful defecation/bowel motions

Throat symptoms (everyone) of gonorrhoea

  • May be no symptoms
  • Sore throat
  • Discomfort on swallowing
  • Appears like strep throat
  • Redness
  • Possible white spots
  • Yellowish/white discharge
  • Symptoms can occur days after oral or anal contact (7-21 days)
  • Kissing isn’t a very useful transmitter of oral gonorrhoea (pharyngeal gonorrhea) since the mouth and tongue don’t carry the infection (the pharynx is further down)

You can also get gonorrhoea in your eyes. You know how.

Outcomes and treatment of gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea can be treated, but it’s important that you don’t keep having sex with an infected, untreated partner. Take your antibiotics for the prescribed amount of time and do not stop before the dose is done. You can create a gonorrhoea superbug (which has already started to happen). Any permanent damage done by not treating the infection fast enough will remain, however, so get regular check-ups at the clinic if you are at risk. Wait a week after treatment to have sex again, and if you still have any symptoms, get retested.

Make sure all your sexual partners know about the infection, despite this being an awkward conversation. If they have passed it on to others, they could run the risk of not being able to have children due to scarring if they aren’t aware of the infection.

Untreated gonorrhoea causes inflammation and scarring in the fallopian tubes, stopping eggs from travelling to the uterus to be fertilised. It increases the risk of an ectopic pregnancy (in the fallopian tubes, life-threatening, because the spaghetti-sized fallopian tube can’t cope with a quickly-multiplying egg/foetus – it bursts into your body cavity). It can also cause pain in the pelvis which can last a lifetime due to the damage.

Men can get painful testicle ‘tubes’ caused by inflammation, sometimes making them infertile. From time to time, gonorrhoea can spread into blood and joints, by which time you are probably very much infertile and near to death.

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.