Generic filters
Search in title

Gonorrhoea Symptoms & Causes

Gonorrhoea is a common sexually transmitted infection, which has seen an recent increase in the UK in the last few years.

Gonorrhoea testing

We provide Gonorrhoea test results in 3 hours (with option of throat/rectal swabs).

Gonorrhoea treatment

For those who have tested positive for Gonorrhoea, we can offer safe and effective treatment.


What are the symptoms of Gonorrhoea?

The symptoms of Gonorrhoea are very similar to those produced by Chlamydia and Mycoplasma infection, and often they occur together.

However, the urethral discharge in men, pain in testes and epididymis in men and abdominal pain can be a lot more acute and pronounced in Gonorrhoea when compared to Chlamydia and other infections.

Tests for Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia are generally done together due to similarities in the symptoms they produce and their presence together in lots of patients.

    What are the symptoms of Gonorrhoea in men?

    Symptoms in the Genital Area

    • Discharge from urethra (Classically copious amounts of pus like discharge from the urethra, with staining of underwear. Sometimes the discharge can be severe enough that patient feels the need to wrap his penis in a tissue paper)
    • “Wetness” at penile tip
    • Discomfort in water pipe
    • Irritation in water pipe
    • Irritation on passing urine
    • Painful urination
    • Pain in one or both testicles
    • Less commonly, red spots on the glans (head) of penis (Balanitis)

    Symptoms in the Eyes

    • Redness of one or both eyes
    • Stickiness in one or both eyes
    • Discharge in one or both eyes

    Symptoms in the Throat

    • Sore throat

    Symptoms in the Ano-rectal area (in homosexual men)

    • Irritation in back passage
    • Mucoid or slimy or blood-stained discharge from the back passage

    Disseminated Gonorrhoea

    Many cases of disseminated gonorrhoea have been identified recently, and refers to gonorrhoea infection away from their usual mucosal sites of infection, involving skin and joints (see image below of Gonorrhoea spread to the legs).

      What are the symptoms of Gonorrhoea in women?

      Many patients with bacterial vaginosis may have an underlying infection (Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, Trichomonas vaginalis). The correct diagnosis and treatment of underlying infection is the best way to manage bacterial vaginosis in such patients. If the underlying cause is not addressed, symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are very likely to return.

      Eyes: see above
      Throat: as above
      Ano-rectal symptoms: as above
      Disseminated gonorrhoea: as above

      Are the symptoms of Gonorrhoea similar to another STI?

      Yes. The symptoms of Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia and Mycoplasma may overlap a lot, and in fact are often found to be present together in many patients. It is important that different infections are diagnosed correctly, and treated appropriately for complete resolution of symptoms.

      Can I have Gonorrhoea without knowing it?

      Yes. It is much more common in women to have Gonorrhoea infection in their genitalia without any symptoms, than it is in men. Sometimes symptoms can be vague and non-specific, and diagnosis can be easy to miss in the absence of appropriate tests.

      Many patients, especially heterosexual women and homosexual men, have Gonorrhoea in their throat without any symptoms. Furthermore, diagnosis of throat infection requires a throat swab for Gonorrhoea.

      I think I have Gonorrhoea. What should I do?

      Seek advice from a sexual health specialist.

      Urethral discharge in men due to Gonorrhoea is one of the most distressful symptoms of an STI. Fortunately the infection responds very well with dramatic improvement in the symptoms within a day or so with administration of correct antibiotics.

      Early treatment helps in prevention of complications as well as reduces transmission of the infection to others.


      Gonorrhoea, often in conjunction with other associated infections like Chlamydia and Mycoplasma genitalium, can lead to certain complications.

      In men and women: SARA (Sexually Acquired Reactive Arthritis)

      Less commonly, Gonorrhoea can cause pain and inflammation of the joints and tendons, known as sexually acquired reactive arthritis (SARA); this can sometimes also cause inflammation of the eyes, and skin lesions. This tends to be seen more often in men than women, and occurs due to a reaction in tissues against the Gonorrhoea bacteria, away from the site of original infection in the genitalia. This can sometimes occur weeks and even months after the genital infection has been effectively treated.

      In Men: Epididymitis or Epididymo-orchitis

      Gonorrhoea can cause the inflammation of one or both testicles and epididymis (the tubes carrying sperm from the testicles). This can be very painful and lead to reduction in fertility.

      In women: Gonorrhoea during pregnancy

      Untreated Gonorrhoea also increases the risk of preterm labour and an underweight baby.

      In women: Gonorrhoea in the newborn baby

      Untreated gonorrhoea at the time of vaginal delivery can lead to infection occurring in the eyes of the newborn baby. These symptoms normally develop within 5 days of birth. This is a very serious infection and can lead to reduced vision or even complete blindness in the newborn.

      In women: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

      When Gonorrhoea spreads to the womb, ovaries and/or fallopian tubes, there is a much higher chance of getting PID. It is important to note that one may have PID without having Gonorrhoea.

      Fortunately, this condition can be treated with a course of antibiotics and if seen early enough, further complications can be avoided. This may include:

      • Difficulty in getting pregnant (which may progress to infertility)
      • Persistent pelvic pain
      • Greater risk of ectopic pregnancy (i.e. when a fertilised egg is implanted outside of the womb)


      If you are experiencing symptoms of Gonorrhoea, we would recommend getting tested and begin treatment without delay.


      Here are images of some Gonorrhoea (before receiving treatment from us).

      Please be advised that the images are highly graphic in nature.


      What causes Gonorrhoea?

      • Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
      • Sharing of unclean sex toys (with/without a condom)
      • Very close contact with partners’ genitals
      • Infected semen and/or vaginal fluid in the eye
      • During childbirth from infected mother

      You CANNOT get Gonorrhoea from the following:

      • Close contact (e.g. kissing and/or hugging)
      • Sharing showers, towels, swimming pools
      • Toilet seats
      • Cutlery

      What can increase my chances of getting Gonorrhoea?

      • If you have had Gonorrhoea before
      • If you have a greater number of sexual partners

      How can I prevent getting Gonorrhoea?

      • Have protected vaginal, oral and anal sex
      • Use a condom, femidom and/or dental dam with a new partner
      • Only use sex toys that you know are clean
      • You and your new partner get tested before having sex
      • Don’t have sex with your partner if they were treated for Gonorrhoea less than 7 days ago

      Can I pass Gonorrhoea to my child?

      If you leave Gonorrhoea untreated whilst pregnant, then there is a chance of passing it onto your child. This may result in your child developing conjunctivitis (an eye infection) and/or pneumonia (lung infection). The risk of a premature birth also increases (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) as well as the possibility of your child being born underweight.

      If you are pregnant and/or think you have Gonorrhoea, please see your sexual health clinician without any delay. Treatment is simple and complications can be avoided.

      Page reviewed by Dr. Manoj Malu (Clinical Director)

      Last reviewed date: 3 March 2020
      Next review due: 3 March 2023

      Whilst this content is written and reviewed by sexual health specialists, it is for general guidance only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your clinician.