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Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by Neisseria Gonorrhoeae or Gonococcus bacteria. Gonorrhoea often affects the rectum, the urine passing tubes and the womb opening, but cannot survive for long outside of the human body.

Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial STI in the UK. The infection is transmitted through unprotected intercourse (vaginal, oral, or anal), contact with an infected persons genitals and sharing unclean unprotected sex toys.

Gonorrhoea can also be transmitted from mothers to their unborn baby in the womb or during childbirth.

Gonorrhoea can lead to serious health complications including testicle infections, sepsis, miscarriage, and blindness in new-borns, if it is left untreated.


The onset of Gonorrhoea will typically start within 2 weeks of becoming infected, however symptoms may not appear immediately, and in some cases could be many months later.

Common symptoms of Gonorrhoea include:

  • thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis
  • pain when peeing
  • vaginal bleeding between periods
  • eye infection (conjunctivitis) in babies born to mothers with gonorrhoea

Many people with the infection do not show any symptoms. Even when a person with Gonorrhoea has no symptoms, they can still pass on the infection.

What you can do

A person with symptoms, or who suspects they have Gonorrhoea, is advised to contact their local sexual health service or GP to get advice and support on testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

If you are pregnant and think you may have Gonorrhoea, please speak to your GP or midwife.


There are several steps that can be taken to avoid catching and transmitting Gonorrhoea to others:

  • practice safe sex by using condoms consistently and correctly
  • avoid sharing and wash sex toys after use
  • if at risk, have regular screening for Gonorrhoea and other STIs

Further information

Last updated 25 January 2024