Meet the STI that's on the rise in the Republic of Ireland
What is Gonorrhoea?
Gonorrhoea is a common sexually transmitted infection which is increasing among young people. It is a bacterial infection in the area of the penis and vagina, throat, urethra (the tube that holds our urine) and bum.
The number of gonorrhoea cases is on the rise in Ireland. In fact, gonorrhoea is now at the highest rate ever recorded in this country. Gonorrhoea can cause infertility in men and women.
How is it passed on?
- Gonorrhoea is spread by having vaginal sex, anal sex and oral sex without using a condom. Remember, ejaculation does not have to happen for gonnorhoea to be passed on.
- It can also be spread by sharing sex toys or from fingers shared with each other that may have touched an infected area of the body.
- Unprotected rimming (mouth to anus contact/ oral-anal sex).
- It can be passed from a woman to her baby during birth.
What are the symptoms?
- Women often have no symptoms. Up to 50% have only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
- Women might feel pain during sex, have an unusual vaginal discharge (liquid), feel a burning sensation when peeing or have lower abdominal pain. Some women may have bleeding between periods or their periods may become heavier.
- Men might have no symptoms, but 90% of men will.
- Men's symptoms include a watery or thick liquid from the penis or bum, pain when peeing, pain in the testicles (balls) and inflammation of the foreskin.
- Other symptoms include: pain in the bum, throat infection and eye infection.
What treatment can you get?
Visit your doctor or an STI clinic to have gonorrhoea diagnosed. The infection can be treated with antibiotics. These antibiotics may interfere with hormonal contraception, so always check with your doctor beforehand. Your partner and recent partners should also be treated. It is important not to have sex until after the treatment is complete. If your symptoms do not go away, it is important to return to the doctor or clinic for a repeat test.
For a list of free STI clinics in Ireland, click here. Testing is painless, quick, and totally worth it. Check out our run down of what will happen at an STI clinic here.
What happens if you don’t treat it?
- It can spread to other reproductive organs in women and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Left untreated, PID can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy (a dangerous type of pregnancy where the baby develops outside the womb), pain and blocked fallopian tubes.
- Men can develop an infection in the testicles and prostate gland, which can be very painful and lead to infertility.
- Untreated gonorrhoea can rarely lead to arthritis, infection of the heart, skin lesions and meningitis.
How can you prevent gonorrhoea?
- Condoms help protect against gonorrhoea, so it is important to use condoms every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
- Use dental dams (a thin sheet of latex that covers the vagina/and or anus) for oral-vaginal sex or oral-anal sex (rimming).
- Do not share sex toys. Make sure to wash them or cover them with a condom if you do. Check out our guide on safe sex-toy use here.
- Get tested regularly and treated if required - it's free at public STI clinics.
Where can I get tested?
- Tests for Gonorrhoea and other STIs are free at public STI clinics. Check out our list of free STI clinics here. You can also avail of private STI testing (for a fee) from your GP, Family Planning Clinics, GP Medical Centres and in some third-level colleges. The costs for this will vary.
- Gonorrhoea can be tested for with a urine sample, and by taking a swab from the infected area (e.g throat, vagina/cervix, anus).
Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.