Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Gonorrhoea (the clap)

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Gonorrhoea ('the clap') is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria that may infect your throat, anus, urethra, cervix and eyes.
  • Gonorrhoea can cause a sore throat, conjunctivitis, unusual vaginal or penile discharge, and pelvic and genital pain.
  • Gonorrhoea is diagnosed by testing a sample of your urine or a swab of an affected area.
  • Gonorrhoea infection is treated with antibiotics; prompt treatment reduces your chance of developing serious complications such as infections in your heart and brain, and infertility.
  • You can prevent gonorrhoea by practicing safe sex.

What is gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria. It is sometimes known as ‘the clap'.

Gonorrhoea can infect your:

  • throat
  • anus
  • urethra (tube for your urine)
  • cervix (neck of the womb found at the top of your vagina)
  • eyes

What are the symptoms of gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea only usually causes symptoms if it affects the eyes or urethra.

If you do have symptoms, they may include:

In females, they may include:

In males, they may include:

  • yellow, white or green discharge from your penis
  • painful or swollen testicles (balls)
  • redness around the opening of your penis

If you do develop symptoms, usually they start 2 to 5 days after being infected with gonorrhoea.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is caused by infection with the bacterium neisseria gonorrhoea.

It is spread through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can also be passed by your fingers or hands from your genitals to your eyes.

If you have gonorrhoea during pregnancy, it may be passed to your baby during labour and birth, and may cause neonatal conjunctivitis (eye infection) or even blindness.

When should I see my doctor?

You should see your doctor or visit your local sexual health clinic if you:

  • think you have gonorrhoea or another STI
  • have had sexual contact with someone who has been diagnosed with gonorrhoea or another STI

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How is gonorrhoea diagnosed?

Gonorrhoea is diagnosed by:

  • a sample of your urine
  • a swab (sample) with a cotton bud from where you may be infected, such as your cervix (in your vagina), penis, anus or throat

The swab or sample is sent to a laboratory for testing.

Gonorrhoea is a nationally notifiable disease. This means that your doctor must tell the Department of Health about all cases of gonorrhoea. The Department monitors all cases of gonorrhoea in order to identify outbreaks and improve healthcare responses.

If you have gonorrhoea, you should also get tested for other STIs such as syphilis, chlamydia and HIV.

How is gonorrhoea treated?

Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics.

It is very important that you finish the full course of antibiotics. After you have finished treatment, you will be tested again to make sure you are cured.

Most of the time antibiotics cures gonorrhoea. It's important to remember to keep practicing safe sex, since treatment doesn't make you immune to reinfection with gonorrhoea if you are exposed again.

Neisseria gonorrhoea bacteria are becoming more resistant to antibiotics, so if you still have symptoms a few days after starting treatment, see your doctor again.

It's also important to tell any sexual partners that you have an STI, so they can be tested and treated too.

Your doctor will help you decide who you need to tell and how to tell them.

You should also avoid sexual contact:

  • for the first 7 days after you have started your treatment or until you have finished your treatment and symptoms have gone away — whichever is later
  • with any sexual partners from the past 2 months until they have been tested and treated

Can gonorrhoea be prevented?

The best way you can prevent gonorrhoea is by practicing safe sex:

  • Always use condoms with a water-based lubricant.
  • Always use dental dams for oral sex (a dental dam is a thin square of latex placed over the vulva or anus during oral sex).
  • Limit your sex partners to reduce your risk of catching an STI.
  • Avoid sex with someone infected with gonorrhoea until after they have finished treatment and are cured.
  • Have regular check-ups and STI checks.

Learn more about practicing safe sex.

Complications of gonorrhoea

Untreated gonorrhoea can cause:

Some of these complications can cause permanent damage to your health.

Coping with being diagnosed with gonorrhoea

Finding out you have gonorrhoea can be distressing. You might feel alone, embarrassed, anxious and afraid of rejection or not being sexually desirable.

Gonorrhoea is a very common STI. It can be easily treated, and you can fully recover.

If you are worried about telling recent sexual partners that you have gonorrhoea, you can send them an anonymous text message or email through some websites, such as Let Them Know.

Remember, your diagnosis is confidential. Your health professional is not allowed to tell anyone without your permission.

However, you may find it helpful to talk to a parent or a friend you trust. There are organisations that can support you, such as Sexual Health Quarters. They can provide counselling, help you with your treatments and answer questions you may have.

Resources and support

  • NSW Sexual Health Infolink (1800 451 624 is a non-judgemental information and STI referral service in New South Wales.
  • Family Planning provides sexual health and reproductive services, including STI testing. Get information and find clinics in your state or territory here.
  • The Let Them Know website helps you send free, anonymous text messages or emails to sexual partners to help with contact tracing.
  • Drama Down Under is a website specifically for males with male sexual partners. Learn more about STIs, contact tracing and receive reminders when it's time to be retested.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2024

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results


Gonorrhoea (also known as ‘the clap’) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria.

Read more on WA Health website

Gonorrhoeae | Pathology Tests Explained

The test is looking for evidence of the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes the sexually transmitted disease known as gonorrhoea. Uncomplica

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Gonorrhoea | Family Planning NSW

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex, or by the fingers and hands from the genitals to the eyes. It is less common in the general community than other STIs such as chlamydia. Gonorrhoea can infect the throat, rectum (back passage), urethra (urine passage), cervix (neck of the womb) and eyes.

Read more on Family Planning Australia website

The facts about Gonorrhoea - what it is, how to prevent it, how to treat it

Gonorrhoea is sometimes called ‘Gono’ and can be easily treated with a course of antibiotics if caught early. Regular STI testing and condom use helps protect against Gonorrhoea.

Read more on NSW Health website

Gonorrhoea | Body Talk

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial STI that can infect the reproductive organs in girls and guys. Find out all the facts here as well as tips on how to stay safe.

Read more on Body Talk website

Gonorrhoea | Sex | ReachOut Australia

Gonorrhoea is a common bacterial sexually transmitted infection. It can cause a lot of damage to the reproductive system if left untreated. Learn more about gonorrhea treatment with this guide from

Read more on website

Gonorrhoea - Sexual Health Victoria

Sexual Health Victoria (formally Family Planning Victoria) focuses on reproductive and sexual health care, education and advocacy. Our vision is to improve ever

Read more on Sexual Health Victoria website

Gonococcal infection | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

Find out how we define and monitor cases of gonococcal infection, and where you can learn more about this disease.

Read more on Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website

The low down on common STIs and how to prevent and treat them

Chlamydia, Herpes, Gonorrhea. STIs are more common than you probably think. In fact, most people who are sexually active will come into contact with an STI at some point in their life. 

Read more on NSW Health website

Sexually transmitted infections and reproductive outcomes

Here is what you need to know about the possible health effects of STIs and how to avoid them.

Read more on Your Fertility website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.