WHAT IS IT?
Gonorrhea is the second most common bacterial STI. People of any age and gender can get gonorrhea. It can infect the cervix, urethra, rectum, throat, and eyes.
HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED?
- Gonorrhea is spread through unprotected oral, vaginal/penile, or anal sex with an infected partner.
- You can get gonorrhea through sexual contact even if there is no penetration or ejaculation (like oral sex). You cannot get gonorrhea by touching objects, such as a toilet seat.
- Having gonorrhea once does not make you immune to it. It is possible to get gonorrhea more than once.
- Gonorrhea can be passed from parent to a baby during birth.
HOW WOULD I KNOW I HAD IT?
Many people with gonorrhea have no symptoms. While most people with penises develop symptoms, most people with vaginas do not. Symptoms typically appear 2-7 days after initial exposure.
Symptoms may include:
- Vaginal discharge
- Painful urination
- Lower abdominal or lower back pain
- Vaginal bleeding after sex or between periods
- Pain during intercourse
- Thick, yellowish-green discharge from the penis
- Itching penis
- Testicular pain and/or swelling
- Rectal pain, discharge, bleeding and/or itching
- Throat infection
- Discharge, redness and/or itching of the eyes
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR PARTNER
- Use condoms to help prevent the spread of gonorrhea during vaginal/penile or anal sex
- Use condoms or dental dams to prevent the spread of gonorrhea during oral sex
- Use condoms on any shared sex toys
- Make an appointment to be tested for gonorrhea and get screened regularly.
TESTING AND WHEN TO GET TESTED
- Tests can be done from a urine sample or taking a swab from the infected site including the vagina, urethra, rectum or throat.
- It takes 14 days after an encounter for the test to be a true positive or negative. It’s important that you wait for this time period before testing.
- At HSHC, we routinely swab for gonorrhea when we do a Pap test, but this is not necessarily done at other clinics. Outside of our clinic, always ask for STI swabs to be done if you want them taken during a Pap test.
- You are at a higher risk of getting gonorrhea if you have a new sexual partner, more than one sexual partner, or if you currently have other STIs.
- If you have been diagnosed with gonorrhea, you should be re-tested 3-6 months routinely after completing treatment.
- You should get tested after every new partner you have had when no condom was used and/or every 3 months if you are seeing multiple partners.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
- Gonorrhea can be treated with and cured with antibiotics. The treatment usually includes pill(s) (often one pill) and a single muscular injection.
- You must abstain from sex until 1 week after you and your partners finish all of your antibiotics.
- In Nova Scotia, gonorrhea is a “notifiable disease.” It means that once a diagnosis of gonorrhea is made, it is required by law that all of your sexual partners within the last 60 days must be notified so they can be tested and treated. This is called ‘contact tracing’. You can contact your partners or a Public Health nurse can make those calls for you. The Public Health nurse will not give any of your identifying information to the people they call. They will simply say something like, “Someone you have been sexually active with in the past few months has just tested positive for gonorrhea. We encourage you to get tested as soon as possible.”
IF IT ISN’T TREATED, CAN IT LEAD TO MORE SERIOUS PROBLEMS?
Gonorrhea can lead to serious health issues if it is not detected and treated early.
- In people with vaginas and/or a uterus/ovaries, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), meaning the infection from gonorrhea spreads to the uterus and fallopian tubes. This can increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and/or chronic pelvic pain. Gonorrhea may lead to miscarriage, preterm birth, premature rupture of membranes or infection. During birth the infant can get gonorrhea from their parent causing eye and/or blood infections.
- In people with penises/testicles, untreated gonorrhea can lead to infection and inflammation of the testicles.
- In everyone, gonorrhea may cause rashes, sores, arthritis, infertility, or a severe infection of the blood.
- All persons infected with gonorrhea are at increased risk of contracting and transmitting HIV if exposed to HIV or already HIV-positive.
HOW TO BOOK AND PREPARE FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT
BOOKING AN APPOINTMENT
Booking an appointment with us is easy! Give us a call at 902.455.9656 ext. 0. You will be speaking with either a volunteer or a medical administrator. We cannot book appointments by email or Facebook. You cannot book an appointment for someone else, even if they are your partner or child. We will need to speak with the person directly. To book, we will need your full name, birth date, phone number, and a very brief reason for your visit. That’s it! The person on the phone will outline anything you need to know to prepare for your appointment. Our average wait time for an appointment is 4-6 weeks from the day you call.
Make sure you bring your valid provincial health card with you to your appointment. Clients without health cards are subject to doctors and lab fees.
Are you a youth? You do not need parental consent for any of our appointments.
Don’t have access to or lost your health card? You are entitled to your health card information! Call MSI toll-free at 1-800-563-8880 (in Nova Scotia) or at 902-496-7008 from Monday-Friday 8am-5pm. We require the number and the expiry date. Another tip: take a picture of your card! You will never lose it again!
- Oral, vaginal, and anal STI tests have no preparation.
- Penile urethral testing (urine test) requires no peeing for 2 hours prior to the appointment.