What Is The Difference Between Chlamydia And Gonorrhoea?

Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea are two of the most common STIs among guys who have sex with guys. Nicknamed “the clam” and “the clap” respectively, Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea often don’t present symptoms in men, which is why it’s so important to test regularly for STIs if you are sexually active. 

For guys who think they may be showing symptoms of Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea, here’s what you need to know about the similarities and differences between the two STIs. 

What are the similarities between Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea?

While the two STIs are caused by different types of bacteria, there’s a number of similarities between them. 

1. Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea share methods of transmission

Many STIs can be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids or the skin during sex. Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea are no different, and can similarly transmitted by: 

  • Anal sex (whether topping or bottoming)
  • Oral sex
  • Fingering or fisting (if hands have come into contact with bodily fluids)

2. Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea present similar symptoms

While Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea don’t always present symptoms, they affect many of the same areas of the body. When signs of either STI appear, they are nearly identical, presenting in the following ways:

  • Discharge from the tip of the penis (urethra) or front hole
  • Itching, pain or burning while peeing
  • Pain, swelling or redness of the balls
  • Pain, discharge or bleeding from the arse

3. Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea can be prevented using condoms

Condoms remain the most effective method for guys to prevent Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea transmission. They cover the skin, protecting the wearer from exposure to any STIs in a guy’s arse or mouth, as well as from passing the STIs to his partner. 

While PrEP is a very effective tool to prevent HIV transmission, it does not protect against STIs such as Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea. PrEP can be used alongside condoms to offer protection against both HIV and other STIs. 

4. Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea can affect the eyes

Just as both STIs affect the penis, arse and throat, they can also affect the eyes. When you touch your eyes after coming into contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has either STI, it can cause an infection. Possible symptoms of an ocular Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea infection include pain or discharge from the resulting bacterial infection. 

How are Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea different?

While the STIs share many similarities, there are some differences between Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. 

1. Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea are caused by different bacteria

While both STIs are bacterial in nature, it is a different bacterial organism that causes Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. It is Chlamydia trachomatis that causes Chlamydia, whereas Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium causes Gonorrhoea. 

2. Gonorrhoea can cause itchiness and pain during bowel movements

Gonorrhoea can lead some to experience itchiness and pain during bowel movements, which is an indication you might be dealing with Gonorrhoea as opposed to Chlamydia. 

3. Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea are treated differently

While similar in that they are both curable STIs, Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea require different treatment strategies. Treatment is usually administered by a doctor or nurse soon after diagnosis, or if you are a known contact of someone who has been diagnosed with the STI. 

Chlamydia is usually treated with a single dose of the oral antibiotic azithromycin, and then a short course of the oral antibiotic Doxycycline for seven days. For Gonorrhoea, treatment consists of an intramuscular injection of an antibiotic called ceftriaxone, and oral antibiotic azithromycin. Though, depending on your circumstances, your doctor may advise otherwise.

Test for STIs regularly to know your status

If you are a guy who has sex with guys and you are sexually active, you should test for STIs regularly. As part of a general STI screen you’ll receive a throat swab, anal swab and urine sample. These are used to test for both Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. Once collected they get sent to a lab to test for both forms of bacteria. 

Not sure where to get tested? There are many sexual health clinics across NSW that offer confidential STI testing and treatment, no matter how you identify. These tests are also usually covered by Medicare, depending on the doctor or clinic you visit. You can find your closest sexual health clinic using our ‘where to get tested’ tool here. 

Had an STI recently and need to let him know?

Believe it or not, many guys would prefer you told them directly. For real! Consider this – a guy you’ve recently slept with finds out he has chlamydia. Wouldn’t you rather he tell you than not? 

But if you’d like to remain discreet, there are online tools, such as Let Them Know, that enable you to anonymously inform your recent sexual partner(s) they may have contracted an STI. It’s free to use and your identity is kept confidential.

You can also read our guide to telling someone you have an STI here.