Gonorrhoea Diagnosis

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When you go to the doctor, there are certain tests that they can perform to decide if what you have is gonorrhoea. There are three main methods that will identify if you have a gonococcal infection so if you have any symptoms that lead you to believe that you may have an infection then you need to get tested.  You will either get the results straight away or have to wait up to 2 weeks depending on the type of test carried out. It is also a good idea to get tested for any other Sexually transmitted infection for there is a chance that you may have contracted more than one infection.

Culture test:

Usually the doctor will take a fluid sample from the infected area so that they can grow a culture to help identify the bacteria. They are the most effective way of diagnosing a gonococcal infection and involve taking a sample from one of the following areas: the vaginal or penile discharge, an endocervical swab, from the blood or from the rectum.  They can then grow a culture of the bacteria within the next two days, which allows them to identify the type of bacteria present at the site of infection.

Gram stain:

This is where they will take a sample of cervical/urethral discharge and perform a gram stain so they can look at the sample under a microscope and determine the type of bacteria in that sample.  This is an effective method for diagnosing men with gonorrhoea but not as accurate for women.

DNA test:

This is a relatively new method of diagnosis where the doctor will take a urine sample and use a test called the ligase chain reaction test to work out whether the bacteria are in the sample and amplify their genes if they are.

Who should get tested?

You should always get tested for gonorrhoea if:

  • You are displaying one or more of the symptoms
  • You have had unprotected sex with a new partner
  • Your partner has had unprotected sex with someone else
  • You have another STI
  • Your partner has been diagnosed with gonorrhoea.

It is always best to get tested if you have any doubt because if you leave gonorrhoea untreated then there can be serious complications.

If you are diagnosed with gonorrhoea then it is important that any sexual partners are tested and that you refrain from sexual activity until you are completely healthy once again.

Where can you get tested?

You can get tested at your local GP practise, any GUM or sexual health clinic, a contraceptive clinic or a private clinic if you prefer. You can also get home testing kits for gonorrhoea online but the accuracy can vary between the tests so it is best to get a doctors consultation.

Will testing hurt?

No, the testing for Gonorrhoea involve swab tests and urine samples. As can be expected, the urine sample will not cause you any pain. If the doctor needs to take a swab from the infected area, then they will use a speculum to take a sample from the infected area. At the most this will cause a little discomfort but no pain should be expected and the procedure is extremely quick, so there is nothing to worry about.

How accurate are these methods?

Testing for Gonorrhoea is not 100% accurate due to the nature of the bacteria. They are very fragile and can die easily from exposure to sunlight and drying out. Therefore a culture may not be made successfully before the bacteria die which is an issue. A swab sample results will successfully diagnose 80% of cases of the infection so there is not complete accuracy. Also the gram stain is a useful tool for diagnosis but it is more effective for diagnosing men than women. Only half the amount of women with a Gonococcal infection will successfully be diagnosed through the gram stain method. Therefore doctors may perform more tests to rule out the chance of you having Gonorrhoea and to check for any more infections that you may have contracted.

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