Gonorrhea symptoms, testing and treatment

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It has also been known as “the clap” or “the dose.”

Make an appointment at any of our clinics in Greater Victoria to get tested for gonorrhea, or to find out more.

For further reading, see BCCDC’s information on gonorrhea

How gonorrhea spreads

There has been an increase in the rates of gonorrhea in BC over the past few years.

  • Gonorrhea is spread through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected partner
  • It can be spread just through contact with the penis, vagina, mouth or anus. Ejaculation is not necessary.
  • Can be spread from a pregnant person to baby during delivery
  • After getting gonorrhea once, you do not become “immune” to it. You can be re-infected anytime.

Preventing gonorrhea

To prevent gonorrhea, use good sex safety skills including regular infection screening.

  • Use condoms to reduce the risk of gonorrhea during vaginal, anal and oral sex.
  • Use condoms and dental dams to prevent transmission during oral sex.
  • Make an appointment to get tested for gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea symptoms

Many people have no symptoms with a gonorrhea infection, but any symptoms usually appear within 30 days of infection.

  • Gonorrhea can infect the cervix, penis, rectum or throat.
  • Throat infections may cause a sore throat but usually don’t.
  • Rectal infections may cause discharge, itching, soreness, bleeding, painful bowel movements, or not.
  • Gonorrhea  may cause burning when urinating; different vaginal discharge; discharge from the penis; painful or swollen testicles; or bleeding between periods or after intercourse.

Risks of untreated gonorrhea

  • In people with vaginas, gonorrhea can result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can cause infertility, ectopic pregnancy, or chronic pelvic pain.
  • In people with penises, gonorrhea can cause an infection of the tube that carries sperm from the testicles (epididymitis) which can lead to infertility.

Gonorrhea tests and diagnosis

  • Lab tests can be done with a urine sample or by taking a swab from the infected site such as the cervix, urethra, rectum, or throat.
  • At ISHS, we always swab for gonorrhea whenever we do a Pap test, but this is not routinely done elsewhere. Outside of our clinics, always ask for STI swabs to be done if you want them taken during a Pap test.

Gonorrhea treatment

  • Gonorrhea is easily treated and cured with antibiotics (provided you finish all the medication). The antibiotics are provided free of cost.
  • All recent sex partners (previous 60 days ) need to be treated.
  • You need to abstain from having sex until 1 week after you and your partner have completed the entire course of antibiotics—if not, you can easily become re-infected.