Gonococcal Arthritis

Gonococcal Arthritis or Disseminated Gonococcal Infection: Types, Symptoms, Treatment

Gonococcal arthritis is also known as disseminated gonococcal infection.

Gonococcal arthritis is a rare disorder. Gonococcal arthritis is a complication of gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted infection that results in inflammation and pain in the tissues and joints. Gonorrhea is a commonly caused sexually transmitted infection.

Gonorrhea is a disease that spreads through sexual contact. However, babies can get this from their mothers at the time of birth. Painful urination or intercourse, discharge from the penis or vagina and pelvic pain are the most common symptoms of gonorrhea. Gonorrhea may not exhibit any symptoms in few of the cases. Antibiotics are helpful in treating this infection. However, many individuals do not seek treatment for this infection probably because they do not experience any symptoms or due to embarrassment.

Gonococcal Arthritis or Disseminated Gonococcal Infection

If gonorrhea is left untreated it may result in several complications one of which is gonoccocal arthritis. The common symptoms include painful and swollen joints and skin lesions eventually leading to chronic joint pain.

Types of Gonococcal Arthritis or Disseminated Gonococcal Infection

Gonococcal Arthritis Can Broadly Be Classified Into Two Types:

  • The first type involves skin rashes on several joints, generally big joints like the wrist, ankle and knee.
  • The second type is rare in nature. The second type involves spreading of the bacteria through the blood i.e. disseminated gonococcemia. This type usually results in single joint infection.

Epidemiology of Gonococcal Arthritis or Disseminated Gonococcal Infection

In United States gonococcal arthritis is recorded to be affecting individuals between the age group of 15 to 29 years. Gonococcal arthritis is three to four times more common in women when compared to men due to the higher risk of asymptomatic infection in women. Gonococcal infection is also more common among African Americans, however it is less prevalent in Native American, Hispanic, and Asian population.

About 700,000 new cases are being reported each year in the United States.

Causes and Risk Factors of Gonococcal Arthritis or Disseminated Gonococcal Infection

Gonococcal arthritis is a joint infection. Gonorrhea resulting from Neisseria gonorrhoeae usually causes gonococcal arthritis. Sexually active adolescent girls more commonly get affected with gonococcal arthritis.

Signs and Symptoms of Gonococcal Arthritis or Disseminated Gonococcal Infection

  • Joint pain for about one to four days.
  • Pain in the wrists and hands resulting from tendon inflammation.
  • Single joint pain.
  • Skin rash.
  • Lower abdominal pain.
  • Fever.
  • Burning and pain during urination.

Treatment for Gonococcal Arthritis or Disseminated Gonococcal Infection

  • The first step towards treatment is to cure gonorrhea of the infected patient using appropriate antibiotics.
  • The second step involves locating and treating all the possible sexual contacts of the infected patient in order to prevent future spread of the infection.
  • A visit after about a week of treatment is also very important in a complicated case of infection to check and confirm that the infection was cured.

Investigations for Gonococcal Arthritis or Disseminated Gonococcal Infection

A complete subjective and blood culture examination is performed to diagnose gonococcal arthritis. Tests performed for verifying gonorrhea infection may include:

  • Joint fluid gram stain.
  • Culture of joint aspirate.
  • Cervical gram stain.
  • Throat culture.
  • Urine test for gonorrhea.