Diagnosing gonorrhea

Diagnosing gonorrhea

When should you see a doctor?

Any suspected signs of gonorrhea should be diagnosed and treated by a medical doctor. If you notice any signs and symptoms, make an appointment with your general practitioner (GP) as soon as possible.

If you become aware that a sex partner has been diagnosed with gonorrhoea (whether you are showing noticeable signs of infection or not), it is also strongly advised that you be tested too. 

If you are diagnosed with gonorrhoea and your GP notices any other concerns or complications, you may be referred to specialists.

Before your doctor's appointment you should be prepared to:

  • Discuss your symptoms in detail
  • Provide a list of all medications and supplements you are currently taking
  • Honestly disclose your full sexual history
  • Potentially provide contact information for previous sexual partners so that they can be anonymously contacted on your behalf by your doctor. You may also contact your sexual partners directly to advise testing as soon as possible.
  • Ask any questions you may have and address any other concerns.

Gonorrhea diagnosis and tests

Your GP will likely ask you a number of questions during the initial stages of your consultation. These can include:

  • What are your symptoms and how long ago did you start experiencing them?
  • Have these symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Have you ever previously been exposed to sexually transmitted infections?

Your doctor will be able to diagnose a gonorrhoea infection in several ways. To assess whether Neisseria gonorrhoeae is present in the body or not, you doctor will analyse a sample of cells with the use of laboratory testing.

Gonorrhea test samples may be collected by means of the following:

  • Urine test: This test will help your doctor to identify the presence of any bacteria in the urethra.
  • Swab of an affected area of the body (take a sample of fluid): Your doctor may take a swab of your throat, urethra, vagina, cervix, penis or rectum to try and identify any bacteria present in these areas.

Urine test in laboratory.

Other STD infections, including chlamydia (which often accompanies gonorrhoea infections and is tested for simultaneously) may also be tested for by taking a blood sample. Your doctor may very well recommend an HIV test, as well as any other STD test that he/she feels is appropriate, depending on your risk factors.

If your doctor suspects any infection in your joints or bloodstream, a blood test (sample of drawing blood from a vein) or inserting a needle into the symptomatic joint to withdraw fluid will be done. In the laboratory, a stain will be added to the sample for examination under a microscope. If the cells react to the stain, it will show up as a gonorrhoea infection. Another way to test this is by placing the sample on a special dish which is then incubated under ideal bacterial growth conditions for a period of a few days. A colony of bacteria will grow if gonorrhoea is present.

Preliminary results for all tests may be available within 24 hours. Results can take several days (up to 3 days) to come back from the laboratory.

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