A swab of secretion or discharge from the infected area.
Testing is available at genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinics , sexual health centres, contraceptive centres and some GP surgeries.
Please tell your doctor or healthcare professional about the use of antibiotics or, for women, douches or vaginal creams within 24 hours before testing vaginal samples, as they may affect test results. For a urine sample, you may be instructed to wait one to two hours after you last urinated before collecting a urine sample. Follow any instructions you are given.
The test is looking for evidence of the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhoea. Gonorrhoea is easily treated but can cause severe reproductive and health problems if left untreated.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A swab is used to get a sample of secretion or discharge from the infected area such as the cervix, urethra, penis, anus, or throat. Many doctors will take a sample from more than one body site to increase the likelihood of finding the bacteria. A urine sample may be tested if you don’t have any symptoms. You may be instructed to wait one to two hours after you last urinated before collecting the urine sample.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
Tell your doctor about use of antibiotics or, if you are a woman, douches or vaginal creams within 24 hours before testing vaginal samples, as they may affect test results. You may be instructed to wait one to two hours after you last urinated before collecting the urine sample. Follow any instructions you are given.
How is it used?
The test is used in two ways:
- to diagnose the cause of symptoms, and
- to screen sexually active people.
A definitive diagnosis is important because gonorrhoea can resemble chlamydia, and the two disorders require different treatment.
When is it requested?
A doctor may request the test if you have symptoms such as (for women) a yellow or bloody vaginal discharge, bleeding associated with vaginal intercourse, or burning/painful urination; or (for men) pus discharging from the penis or a burning sensation during urination.
What does the test result mean?
A positive test indicates an active infection that requires treatment with a course of antibiotics.
Is there anything else I should know?
Many people contract gonorrheoa without knowing it, because symptoms are very mild or even absent. If you test positive for gonorrhoea, you should also be screened for other sexually transmitted diseases and your sexual partner(s) should be tested and treated as well.
The diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease should not be ruled out if the test is negative; patients' clinical symptoms and history should also be considered.
What are the symptoms of gonorrhoea?
For women, early symptoms (which are often mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection) include bleeding brought on by vaginal intercourse, burning/painful urination, and a yellow or bloody vaginal discharge. For men, early symptoms include a discharge of pus from the penis, pain in the penis, and a burning sensation when urinating. Symptoms of rectal infection include discharge, itching, and painful bowel movements with blood on the faeces.
The symptoms usually appear 2 to 10 days after sexual contact with an infected partner. The early symptoms can be mild, and most women and many men can be infected without showing any symptoms.
What will happen if I don't get treated?
Untreated gonorrhoea can lead to severe complications. Women can develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection that spreads from the vagina and cervix to the uterus and fallopian tubes. PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can lead to ectopic (or tubal) pregnancy or sterility. The symptoms of PID include heavier periods with more cramps, abnormal mucus discharges, pain in the lower abdomen, weakness, fever, vomiting, and pain during intercourse. Other long-term complications include abscesses and infection around the liver. In men, the infection can lead to inflammation of the testicles and epididymus that can result in sterility. In both men and women the bacteria can also spread to the bloodstream and infect the joints, heart valves or brain, resulting in long-term or permanent organ damage.
How is gonorrhoea transmitted?
It is generally transmitted through sexual contact (oral, vaginal, or anal) with an infected partner. Because the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae can survive outside the body for a short time, contact with discharge on a towel or other object used by an infected person may transmit the infection; however, this is very rare. An infected mother can spread the disease to her baby during childbirth causing infection of the eye (conjunctivitis).
How is it treated?
Gonorrhoea can be treated with a course of antibiotics which often involve an injection and an oral tablet. Occasionally a second course of antibiotics is needed especially if the symptoms persist or the bacteria is resistant to initial antibiotics. As it is a sexually transmitted disease, the partner/partners need to be screened and treated.
The treatment is offered free at sexual health clinics.
How can it be prevented?