CASES of gonorrhoea have surged by 26 per cent in England, Public Health England (PHE) has warned.
Experts say the rise in diagnoses is due to an increase in testing and more comprehensive data on sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Gonorrhoea is transmitted through sex or by sharing sex toys[/caption]
Despite this, health officials have urged people to start practising safer sex, including the use of condoms.
The data from PHE revealed that between 2018 and 2019 gonorrhoea diagnoses increased by 26 per cent.
This was an overall increase of five per cent in new STI diagnoses in 2018 from 447,522 to 468,342 in 2019.
PHE stated that the increases in gonorrhoea were reported in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
In this group there was a 26 per cent increase from 26,864 to 33,853.
An increase of 26 per cent was also seen in heterosexual women from 14,167 to 17,826.
In heterosexual men there was a 17 per cent increase from 13,036 to 15,253.
But what are the signs of gonorrhoea you need to look out for?
1. Painful to urinate
Both men and women who have contracted gonorrhoea may find it painful to pass urine.
In most people it takes a couple of weeks for symptoms to emerge although it can take a few months longer in some cases.
Men and women are likely to feel a burning sensation when peeing.
It’s likely you’ll find it painful to urinate if you have gonorrhoea[/caption]
While symptoms vary from person to person, both men and women may experience discharge.
In women this is likely to be watery or off colour vaginal discharge.
Men could experience discharge from the penis, this could be white, yellow or green.
3. Stomach pains
This is a symptom that is just present in females and is a more unusual side effect of gonorrhoea.
The NHS states that women who have the infection may experience a pain or tenderness in the lower abdominal area.
4. Disruption to your cycle
Again, another symptom found just in women is a disruption to your menstrual cycle.
This could mean that your bleeding becomes heavier, or you could start to bleed between periods.
The NHS states that you could also bleed after sex, but said this is less common.
What is gonorrhoea?
The bacterial infection spreads through all forms of unprotected sex, as well as by sharing unwashed or unprotected sex toys.
According to the NHS, the bacteria which causes gonorrhoea can sometimes infect your throat and eyes, as well as the more common locations of the cervix, urethra and rectum.
Pregnant women can pass the infection on to their baby, which can cause blindness if it isn’t treated in time.
But the bacteria which causes gonorrhoea can’t survive outside of the human body for long.
This means it doesn’t spread by kissing, hugging or sharing cutlery, towels or toilet seats.
This symptom is seen only in men and can be uncomfortable.
The NHS states that men who have contracted gonorrhoea may experience swelling or inflammation of the foreskin.
Men may also experience pain or tenderness in the testicle.
The NHS says that this is a rare symptom in men.
Like most bacterial infections, gonorrhoea can be treated with a short course of antibiotics.
The treatment usually starts with a jab, followed by an antibiotic tablet.
Normally, your symptoms will clear up a couple of days after the this, although some may linger for a couple of weeks longer.
As well as gonorrhoea, PHE said cases of other STIs are also on the up.
PHE reported that cases of syphilis have increased 10 per cent and chlamydia by 5 per cent.
A pandemic is not a sustainable solution for tackling soaring rates of STIs
Ian Green Terrence Higgins Trust
Dr Hamish Mohammed, national lead for sexually transmitted infection surveillance at PHE said the consistent and correct use of condoms with new and casual sexual partners is the best defence against all STIs.
He added: “We have seen that gonorrhoea has become more resistant to antibiotics and expect to see further cases of antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea in the future, which will be challenging for healthcare professionals to manage.
“If you have had sex without a condom with a new or casual partner, you should get tested.”
Charities warned that the data from PHE does not cover the coronavirus pandemic and added that a lockdown should not be the solution to curbing STIs.
Chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, Ian Green said the figures show the impact of the government’s ongoing inaction and lack of vision for improving the nation’s sexual health.
“This data is for 2019 and so doesn’t account for the Covid-19 pandemic, impact of lockdown or social distancing.
“It’ll be some time before the impact of coronavirus is known – good or bad – but a pandemic is not a sustainable solution for tackling soaring rates of STIs.”
He added that while Covid has pushed digital services to the forefront of the health service – they don’t work for everyone.
“We know digital poverty is a big challenge for many. That’s why a range of options for accessing sexual health services must be maintained – including proper funding – to avoid further entrenching sexual health inequalities.
“Coronavirus and lockdown were never the answer to the question of how to improve the nation’s sexual health and we need long term solutions.
“Now, as people start to have sex again following lockdown, it’s vital services and access to testing and treatment are scaled up in parallel.”