Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus. It used to be known as "the clap". The bacteria are mainly found in discharge from the penis and vaginal fluid from infected men and women.

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 are used

The bacteria can infect the cervix (entrance to the womb), the urethra (tube that carries urine out of the body), the rectum and, less commonly, the throat or eyes. The infection can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby. Gonorrhoea is not spread by kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels, swimming pools, toilet seats, or sharing cups, plates and 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 and bleeding in between periods in women.
  • However, around 1 in 10 infected men and almost half of infected women don't experience any symptoms.

Treating gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is usually treated with a single antibiotic injection and a single antibiotic tablet. This treatment is very effective and 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 are clear of infection.

Preventing gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea and other STIs can be successfully prevented by using appropriate contraception and taking other precautions, such as

  • 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