Gonorrhoea doesn’t always cause symptoms. But even where it is asymptomatic, the condition can still lead to serious complications.
This page contains information on:
- gonorrhoea symptoms in women
- gonorrhoea symptoms in men
- other parts of the body where gonorrhoea symptoms can appear
- how long it can take for gonorrhoea symptoms to appear
- whether they can go away on their own
- and how common it is for gonorrhoea to be symptomless.
Women with gonorrhoea may notice:
- pain or burning in the vagina when going to the toilet
- watery yellow or green discharge from the vagina
- pain or feelings of tenderness in the lower abdomen
- bleeding or spotting between periods
- or heavier bleeding than normal during a period.
Men with gonorrhoea may notice:
- pain or burning in the penis when going to the toilet
- white, yellow or green discharge from the end of the penis
- pain or feelings of tenderness in the testicles
- or balanitis (pain or inflammation of the foreskin).
As well as as the genitals, a gonorrhoea infection can also affect:
- the throat. It usually doesn’t cause any symptoms in such cases.
- the rectum. This can cause symptoms of pain or discharge.
- and the eyes. Conjunctivitis, where the eyes become red, inflamed and bloodshot, and start to leak pus, can occur as a result of a gonorrhoea infection in the eyes.
The above usually develop when infected sperm or vaginal fluid comes into contact with tissue in those areas (for example, if sperm comes into contact with tissue inside the anus during anal sex, or with the mouth and throat during oral sex). The infection can also be passed on through the shared use of sex toys; which can entail contact with the anus or throat.
If symptoms do develop, they’ll tend to appear within one to two weeks following infection. But this isn’t always the case, and symptoms can take much longer to manifest.
Gonorrhoea has the capacity to be symptomless, so it’s fairly common for people to carry the infection but not know. Some people may have no symptoms at all before complications start to develop later on, after the infection has been present for some time.
Because it is so unpredictable, the only way to know if you have gonorrhoea is to get tested.
It’s possible for gonorrhoea symptoms to go away without treatment, but this doesn’t mean that the infection has gone or isn’t still causing damage in the body; complications may well occur despite the absence of symptoms.
Theoretically it is possible for the body to overcome the infection by itself and rid it from the body without treatment, but the likelihood of this happening is very low. Treatment is required in order to tackle the infection; and because gonorrhoea has demonstrated resistant qualities to many antibiotics, re-testing following treatment is usually necessary to ensure the infection is gone.
Around 10 percent of male cases are thought to be symptomless; whereas 50 percent of female cases are thought to be symptomless.
So if you suspect you may have come into contact with gonorrhoea, you will need to have a urine or swab test before you can know for sure. The presence or absence of symptoms is not enough to determine whether or not you have it.
If you have had sex with someone who has suspected gonorrhoea, it’s important to see a doctor and get tested right away.