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Gonococcal arthritis

Definition

Gonococcal arthritis is inflammation of a joint (usually just one) due to a gonorrhea infection.

See also: Non-gonococcal bacterial arthritis

Alternative Names

Disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI)

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Gonococcal arthritis is a bacterial infection of a joint. It occurs in people who have gonorrhea. It affects women more often than it affects men, and is most common among sexually active adolescent girls.

Two forms of gonococcal arthritis exist:

  • One involves skin rashes and multiple joints, usually large joints such as the knee, wrist, and ankle
  • The second, less common form involves spread of the bacteria through the blood (disseminated gonococcemia), which leads to infection of a single joint

Symptoms

Signs and tests

Blood cultures should be checked in all cases of possible gonococcal arthritis.

Tests will be done to check for a gonorrhea infection. This may involve taking samples of tissue, stool, joint fluids, or other body material and sending them to a lab for examination under a microscope. Examples of such tests include:

Treatment

The gonorrhea infection must be treated. For detailed information about treating this disease, see gonorrhea.

There are two aspects of treating a sexually transmitted disease, especially one as easily spread as gonorrhea. The first is to cure the infected person. The second is to locate, test, and treat all sexual contacts of the infected person to prevent further spread of the disease. Some locations allow you to take counseling information and treatment to your partner(s) yourself. In other locations, the health department will contact your partner(s).

A new standardized treatment routine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Your health care provider will determine the best and most up-to-date treatment. A follow-up visit 7 days after treatment is important, if the infection was complicated, to recheck blood tests and confirm the cure of infection.

Expectations (prognosis)

Symptoms usually improve within 1 to 2 days of starting treatment. Full recovery can be expected.

Complications

Untreated, this condition may lead to persistent joint pain.

For information on other gonorrhea-related complications, see gonorrhea.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of gonorrhea or gonococcal arthritis.

Prevention

Not having sexual intercourse (abstinence) is the only absolutely sure method of preventing gonorrhea. A monogamous sexual relationship with an individual known to be free of any sexually transmitted disease (STD) can reduce risk. Monogamous means you and your partner do not have sex with any other people.

You can greatly lower your risk of catching an STD by using a condom every time you have sex. Condoms are available for both men and women, but are most commonly worn by the man. A condom must be used properly every time. For instructions on how to use a condom, see Safe sex.

Treatment of all sexual partners is essential to prevent re-infection.

References

Bamberger DM. Gonorrhea. In: Rakel P, Bope ET, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2008. 60th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier: 2008: chap 184.

Bauer HM, Wohlfeiler D, Klausner JD, et al. California Guidelines for Expedited Partner Therapy for Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrheae. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 2008; 35(3):314-319.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2007. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; December 2008. Accessed April 5, 2009.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Update to CDC's sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2006: fluoroquinolones no longer recommended for treatment of gonococcal infections. MMWR. 2007;56(14):332-336. Accessed April 5, 2009.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for gonorrhea: recommendation statement. Ann Fam Physician. 2005;3(3):263-267. Accessed April 5, 2009.


Review Date: 5/30/2009
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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