Symptoms of Gonorrhoea in Men and Women

Dr Nicholas Antonakopoulos

Medically reviewed by

Dr Nicholas Antonakopoulos

Last reviewed: 19 Mar 2019

How to spot the early signs of gonorrhoea

Young man standing at bus stop looking at symptoms of gonorrhoea on phone

Key takeaways

  • Infected men are more likely to encounter symptoms than women

  • The majority of infected women won’t suffer from any symptoms but the infection can cause great damage to the reproductive system and lead to infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth

  • Symptoms include pain while urinating, discharge, pain and discomfort in the testicles for men or in the lower abdomen for women

The early signs and symptoms of gonorrhoea can be difficult to spot. The likelihood of developing symptoms partially depends on your gender. Infected men are more likely to encounter symptoms than women. Gonorrhoea symptoms are very similar to the symptoms caused by other STIs (for example discharge and a burning sensation when peeing).

The majority of infected women won’t suffer from any symptoms but the infection can cause great damage to the reproductive system and lead to infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth. If you think you’ve been infected, you can order a gonorrhea test kit from our online doctor service. If you or your partner have already been diagnosed, you can order a gonorrhea treatment from us.

Certain strains of the gonorrhoea infection have become resistant to some antibiotics. The recommended best treatment for gonorrhoea is antibiotics at your local GUM (sexual health) clinic.

What are the early symptoms of gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted disease that can potentially affect various parts of your body – from the genitals to the rectum and the eyes. The infection is transmitted during vaginal, anal and oral sex, but infected mothers can also pass the infection on to their babies during childbirth. The STI is most common in people between the ages of 15-30, who are sexually active and have more than one partner a year. Make sure you use a condom every time you have sex to avoid unnecessary risks. If you’re in a monogamous relationship, you should make sure that both of you have been screened for STIs before having unprotected sex. A short antibiotic course can clear the infection very quickly, so don’t hesitate to get tested and treated to avoid complications (such as infertility and the infection spreading to other parts of the body) in the future.

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Early signs of gonorrhoea in women

Like many other STIs, gonorrhoea often doesn’t cause any symptoms, especially in women. It can be difficult to recognise the infection, as some of the symptoms can easily go unnoticed. Half of the women who do develop gonorrhoea symptoms (about 30% to 50% of patients) have abnormal vaginal discharge and one in four encounters pain in the lower abdomen. Less common symptoms of gonorrhoea include pain when urinating, heavier periods or spotting. The vaginal discharge may also have an unusual appearance, it may be watery or creamy, look similar to blood or even slightly green.

These symptoms in women can go unnoticed or be mistaken for another type of infection – such as a common yeast infection, which can be treated with over-the-counter medication. However, an abnormal vaginal discharge can be a sign of a variety of conditions and infections (including other STIs), so it’s important to seek medical help and identify the cause.

Early signs of gonorrhoea in men

About 90% of men with gonorrhoea have symptoms, which makes it easier to identify the infection. The first symptoms may appear about a week after transmission of the disease and usually involve an infection of the urethra, which causes pain when urinating (or a burning sensation when peeing).

Other possible symptoms include a white or cloudy discharge from the penis, an irritation inside the penis and an urge to urinate more frequently than usual. While the gonorrhoea symptoms may go away after a few weeks, the infection remains in your system and can cause further damage to your urethra or other parts of your body. Less common symptoms of gonorrhoea in men include pain in the testicles, and possibly anal pain or discomfort if the infection spreads to the rectum (the same applies to female patients).

Uncommon symptoms of gonorrhoea

In very rare cases, the infection can spread to your joints and tendons (arthritis), causing pain and difficulty moving – particularly if the knee is infected. If the infection continues to spread, it can cause a skin rash (on the chest, palms, limbs) as well as flu-like symptoms (such as. fever and chills).

Although the first symptoms typically appear in the first two weeks following infection, they can also appear months later. In cases where the infection has spread to other parts of the body, it can take several years before the patient notices the first symptoms.

Medically reviewed by:
Dr Nicholas Antonakopoulos

Dr Nicholas Antonakopoulos graduated from the University of London in 2006. He did his postgraduate training in hospitals in the London area, and he trained for four years in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery before completing his training in General practice in 2015.

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Last reviewed: 19 Mar 2019

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ZAVA offers a convenient and discreet service to test for sexually transmitted infections. You will receive your test kit by post. Follow the instructions provided with the test kit and collect a sample (depending on the test kit this could be a blood, saliva, urine sample or genital swab). The test kit comes with an envelope, ready to send to our partner laboratory which will analyse your sample. Once your result has come back, you will be able to view it in your secure ZAVA account. We will never send medical or personal information via email.

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