Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be spread during vaginal, anal, and oral sex, as well as childbirth. This STI is spread when semen, pre-cum, saliva, or vaginal fluids come into contact with the genitals, anus, eyes, or mouth. Gonorrhoea can cause infections of the penis, vagina, cervix, anus, and urethra. In addition to infections of the genitals, gonorrhoea can also infect the mucous membranes of the eyes, mouth, and throat. A gonorrhoea infection affecting the mouth or throat is also known as oral gonorrhoea. Read on to learn more about how oral gonorrhoea occurs, what potential symptoms may be, and how to get tested and treated.
What is gonorrhoea?
Gonorrhoea is a STI caused by a bacterium called Neisseria Gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhoea is also sometimes known as “the clap”. Gonorrhoea is the second most commonly diagnosed STI in the Netherlands, and the most commonly diagnosed STI in men who have sex with men (RIVM, 2021). However, many gonorrhoea infections have no symptoms at all, meaning the true number of people who are infected may be even higher (CDC, 2022).
What is oral gonorrhoea?
Oral gonorrhoea is a gonorrhoea infection that occurs in the mouth and/or throat. Oral gonorrhoea is much less common than gonorrhoeal infections of the genitals, but can be caused by unprotected oral sex with someone who has a gonorrhoea infection on their genitals.
What are symptoms of oral gonorrhoea?
Oral gonorrhoea often does not cause any symptoms, or may cause symptoms that are mistaken for a cold or throat infection (NHS, 2021). That is why getting tested regularly is the most reliable way to check for STIs.
Oral gonorrhoea may cause the following symptoms:
- Sore or itchy throat
- Redness in the throat
- Trouble swallowing
- Swollen lymph nodes
Someone with oral gonorrhoea may also have a genital or anal infection. Symptoms of genital/anal gonorrhoea include:
- Painful urination
- Unusual vaginal/penile discharge
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Anal itching, bleeding, or soreness
- Swelling in the testicles
Source: Mayo Clinic, 2021
Can you spread oral gonorrhoea to others?
Just as it is possible for someone with genital gonorrhoea to spread the infection to a sex partner’s mouth when receiving oral sex, it is also possible for an oral gonorrhoea infection to spread to a sex partner’s genitals when an individual is giving oral sex. It is also possible to have a gonorrhoea infection in more than one area at one time, such as in the throat and genitals. As both oral and genital gonorrhoea can spread to others, prompt testing and treatment is important for the health of yourself and others.
How is oral gonorrhoea transmitted?
Oral gonorrhoea can be transmitted through any type of oral sex. It is possible for oral gonorrhoea to be transmitted even if ejaculation did not occur, as the infection is also present in saliva, vaginal fluids, and precum. Oral gonorrhoea can be transmitted in the following ways:
- Giving oral sex to a man with an infected penis can cause gonorrhoea in the throat
- Giving oral sex to a woman with an infected vagina or urinary tract might cause gonorrhoea in the throat.
- Giving oral sex to a partner with an infected anus might cause gonorrhoea in the throat.
- Receiving oral sex on the penis from a partner with oral gonorrhoea may cause gonorrhoea on the penis.
- Receiving oral sex on the vagina of a partner with oral gonorrhoea might cause gonorrhoea of the vagina or urinary tract.
- Receiving oral sex on the anus of a partner with oral gonorrhoea might cause gonorrhoea in the anus.
Source: (CDC, 2022)
How do you test for an oral gonorrhoea infection?
In many cases oral gonorrhoea does not cause any symptoms, which is why it is difficult to recognize (NHS, 2021). While gonorrhoea is easily treated with antibiotics, an untreated infection can spread to other people and cause more serious health problems.
If you regularly have unprotected sex with changing partners, have been warned by a past partner to get tested, or are experiencing symptoms that could indicate an STI, it is a good idea to get tested for STIs. You can get tested for oral gonorrhoea at your GP, at a sexual health clinic, or using a home test. Homed-IQ’s Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test allows you to check for oral, genital, and anal infections from home. The test comes in three types:
- Urine test for infections of the penis
- Vaginal swab for infections of the vagina
- Swab test for infections of the throat or anus
This simple home test allows you to collect a sample from the area you’d like to test for infection before mailing it to a certified laboratory for analysis. As it is possible for gonorrhoea to affect one area of the body but not others, you may consider testing multiple areas for infection, such as the mouth and genitals/anus. Unsure what type of STI test to use? Try Homed-IQ’s Test Guide.
When can I test for oral gonorrhoea?
The window period is the time between when you were exposed to an STI and when a test can reliably detect the infection. The window period for gonorrhoea is 14 days. That means you should wait at least 14 days after being potentially exposed to gonorrhoea to get tested in order to have a reliable test result (NHG).
How is oral gonorrhoea treated?
Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics. If you test positive for oral or genital gonorrhoea, see a doctor. They will advise you on what treatment is best for you and whether further STI testing is needed.
What happens if oral gonorrhoea is left untreated?
Untreated gonorrhoea can cause serious health problems in women and men. Untreated genital gonorrhoea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women, which can cause infertility or increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy (CDC, 2022). In men, untreated gonorrhoea can cause epididymitis, which can lead to infertility in rare cases. Untreated gonorrhoea can also spread to the blood and to distant areas in the body, causing disseminated gonococcal infection. Disseminated gonococcal infection is a serious condition that can cause arthritis, skin lesions, and in rare cases, endocarditis or meningitis.
Untreated STIs such as gonorrhoea can also increase your risk of getting HIV or passing HIV to others (CDC, 2022). By getting tested regularly, you can keep yourself and others healthy and avoid transmitting STIs.
How can I prevent oral gonorrhoea?
Oral gonorrhoea can be prevented by using condoms or dental dams during oral sex. By using a barrier device between the mouth and the genitals, infected body fluids do not come into contact with mucous membranes. It is possible to modify a condom to be used as a dental dam by cutting the tip off and then cutting along the side to make a rectangle shape. It is also important to get tested for STIs regularly.
Homed-IQ’s sexual health tests contain easy-to-follow instructions and can be completed when and where you like. Within a few days of mailing your sample to the lab you will receive the test results, complete with a downloadable laboratory report that can be brought to your doctor for treatment if needed. Interested in testing for other STIs from home? View our HIV Test or our entire Sexual Health Test portfolio.
Centers for Disease Control. (2022, December 1). Detailed STD Facts – Gonorrhea. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea-detailed.htm#:~:text=If%20left%20untreated%2C%20gonorrhea%20can,condition%20can%20be%20life%20threatening.
Mayo Clinic. (2021, October 5). Gonorrhea – Symptoms and causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gonorrhea/symptoms-causes/syc-20351774
Nederlands Huisartsen Genootschap. (2013, September). Het soa-consult. NHG-Richtlijnen. https://richtlijnen.nhg.org/standaarden/het-soa-consult?_ga=2.18020413.527758847.1679988763-1652938380.1679988763#volledige-tekst
NHS. (2021, November 18). Symptoms. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gonorrhoea/symptoms/
Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu. (2021, June 25). Sexually transmitted infections in the Netherlands in 2020 | RIVM. https://www.rivm.nl/publicaties/sexually-transmitted-infections-in-netherlands-in-2020
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