Some illnesses can remain symptomless or display vague signs, making them difficult to diagnose.

This is true for the majority of gonorrhoea cases, with one in 10 men and five in 10 women not experiencing obvious signs.

A sexually transmitted infection (STI), gonorrhoea is spread through unprotected sex and the use of sex toys that have not been washed or covered with a condom when used.

With cases of gonorrhoea rapidly increasing in England, it is important to be aware of the symptoms in order to seek treatment and prevent it spreading further.

Among both men and women there are four main signs of the infection that should not be ignored.

According to the NHS, among women the most common symptoms include:

An unusual vaginal discharge, which may be thin or watery and green or yellow in colour
Pain or a burning sensation when passing urine
Pain or tenderness in the lower abdominal area – this is less common
Bleeding between periods, heavier periods and bleeding after sex – this is less common.

Whereas in men, symptoms of gonorrhoea can include:

  • An unusual discharge from the tip of the penis, which may be white, yellow or green
  • Pain or a burning sensation when urinating
  • Inflammation (swelling) of the foreskin
  • Pain or tenderness in the testicles – this is rare.

Gonorrhoea can also infect the rectum, eyes and throat.

“Infection in the rectum can cause discomfort, pain or discharge,” the NHS says.

“Infection in the eyes can cause irritation, pain, swelling and discharge, and infection in the throat usually causes no symptoms.”

Infections on the rise

The latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show a worrying trend in gonorrhoea and other STIs.

Data shows there were 392,453 sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reported in England in 2022.

Of these, gonorrhoea and syphilis were most prevalent.

Specifically, cases of gonorrhoea rose by 50.3 percent to 82,592 in 2022, compared to the year prior.

This is the highest number of cases in any one year since records began in 1918.

What to do if you think you have an STI

Navin Khosla, pharmacist at Now Patient, spoke with about what to do if you think you have an STI.

Get tested

It’s important that if you have more than one sexual partner, you’re getting tested on a regular basis.

If you think you have an STI, don’t hesitate to visit your local sexual health clinic as the sooner you receive the results, the quicker the treatment can happen.

Inform your sexual partners

If you think you have an STI then it might not just be you who is affected, so you need to let your sexual partners know.

In these circumstances, it’s always best to be honest as there’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s important to get tested and treated as soon as possible.

Refrain from having sex

Until you receive a negative test result then it’s vital you refrain from any sexual activity, as this will reduce the chances of someone else potentially catching the infection.

If you do end up having intercourse then it’s crucial that a condom is worn by yourself or your partner.

Take medication

If the results from your test are positive, then it’s more than likely a sexual health practitioner will be in contact to discuss the next steps and to advise you on any medication you should take. It’s essential to keep on top of medication as this will help clear the infection.

Get tested again

Even if you’ve finished the course of medication prescribed to help treat your STI, there is still a chance that the infection might not have gone completely, so it’s essential to get tested again.

After all, it’s better to be safe than think you’re in the clear when you’re not.

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