5 things we wish you knew about gonorrhoea

posted by: Jonathan Shaw

1. Gonorrhoea is trending…

Since summer 2019, we have seen a rise in gonorrhoea in Devon, particularly among heterosexual people and younger people (less than 25 years of age). This mirrors what is going on across England which has seen a 26% increase in cases year on year recently (from 44,812 in 2017, to 56,259 in 2018).

You can pick it up from all types of sexual contact including vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex or sharing sex toys.

2. Looking for and recognising symptoms is important

Signs of gonorrhoea will appear in 75-80% of men.
Symptoms can include:
• yellow discharge from your penis
• rectal pain, bleeding and discharge

Women only show signs about half (50%) of the time.
Symptoms can include:
• vaginal discharge
• unscheduled bleeding (eg bleeding after sex or between periods)
• pelvic pain or pain during sex

Any symptoms like this can be reviewed at our Devon Sexual Health clinics. Testing for gonorrhoea in Devon is only routinely available via sexual health clinics like ours

3. But you can be symptom free…

You can feel well with gonorrhoea, so it is important to test when you have had some condomless sex with a new partner – particularly if you have had sex with someone who has been diagnosed with gonorrhoea.

Tests can miss the infection if you have had it for less than 2 weeks. There is no harm in testing early but it is important to repeat tests for gonorrhoea 2 weeks after the last sex you were worried about.

If you have any symptoms at all that you’re worried about, no matter when they occur, contact us to find out how we can help.

4. Super-gonorrhoea is real and we are expecting to see it

Gonorrhoea is getting harder to treat around the world and we are watching out for strains that don’t respond to antibiotics. Some of these cases have been seen in the UK in recent years, and we are expecting to see more very soon. We have tests available to check which antibiotics will work in all our clinics.

We recommend against buying treatment for symptoms of gonorrhoea through friends, or via online pharmacies. You need to know where you have the infection and which antibiotics will work against it. This is only possible by getting reliable testing at a sexual health clinic.

5. Your best defense continues to be condoms

Condoms significantly reduce the chance of catching gonorrhoea, but not many people use them for oral sex. We recommend condoms for vaginal, oral and anal sex to protect against STIs and as a form of contraception.

There is some evidence that regular use of antiseptic mouth wash can also be protective.

More information and advice about gonorrhoea is available here.

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Accessing our service during the COVID pandemic

How to access our service:

We have now implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. This system will be in place for the duration of the pandemic. Please contact our services to access this triage system. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus please do not attend the clinic. Clear advice for people with symptoms of coronavirus is available at nhs.uk/coronavirus .

Advice from our service:

We have updated information on the provision of routine contraception during this pandemic here.

We are currently prioritising these groups for coil and implant (LARC) fits:

  • Those with vulnerabilities including but not limited to those who are: <18, attending abortion and maternity services, homeless, sex workers, victims of sexual assault, people with language barriers, drug and alcohol problems, learning disability, serious mental illness
  • Those aged <30 years

More details on LARC fittings at our service are found here

There is also specific advice on coronavirus available for People Living with HIV here, and for pregnant women here

Self-requested Sexual Health screening by post is available for for under 25s only - more info here

For others with testing requirements please contact the service on 0300 303 3989.

Information is now also available to advise on sexual contact during a time of social distancing here.

Alternative provision:

Please be aware that we may have to cancel, rearrange or shut clinical services in response to changing clinical and staffing pressures created by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

If you are struggling to access sexual health services, alternatives may be available:

  • Emergency Contraception - at your local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills and LARC procedures - obtained from your GP
  • HIV postal testing - available to at-risk groups for a small fee -  more info
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info
  • Condoms by post (for gay and bisexual men only) - more info