Gonococcal Arthritis – An Overview
Gonococcal arthritis is a rare complication of the sexually transmitted diseases (STD), known as gonorrhea. It usually causes painful swelling of the joints and tissues. Gonorrhea is a very common STD, especially among teens and young adults.
Gonorrhea is commonly spread through sexual contact, but babies can also contract it from their mothers during childbirth. Commonly seen symptoms may include painful urination, pain during intercourse, pelvic pain, and discharge from the vagina/penis. At times, gonorrhea infections may also produce no symptoms whatsoever.
Gonococcal arthritis is one of several complications that develop as a result of untreated gonorrhea. Symptom may include inflamed, painful joints and skin lesions. If left untreated, this condition can lead to long-term joint pain.
Signs and Symptoms of Gonococcal Arthritis
Many times, a case of gonococcal arthritis might not show any sort of signs or symptoms at all. Gonococcal arthritis is seen occurring in the ankles, elbows, wrists, knees and rarely in the head and trunk bones. It can affect a single joint or it can affect multiple joints at once also.
Commonly seen symptoms include:
- Swollen/Red joints
- Tender/painful joints
- Restricted range of motion in joint
- Lesions on the skin
Infants may show symptoms, such as:
- Breathing difficulty
- Spontaneous limb movement
Causes of Gonococcal Arthritis
Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium (Neisseria gonorrhoeae). Men as well as women can contract gonorrhea through oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse. Babies can also develop gonorrhea during childbirth in case the mothers are infected.
Women and teenage girls are at an increased risk for contracting gonorrhea. Other risk factors include new sexual partners or multiple partners, and unsafe sex.
Complications from Gonococcal Arthritis
Apart from joint swelling and pain, an untreated gonorrhea infection can also cause other more serious health complications, including:
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- complicated pregnancy
- increased risk of HIV/AIDS
Babies who develop gonorrhea from an infected mother are also at a higher risk for infections, skin sores, and blindness.
Diagnosing Gonococcal Arthritis
The diagnosis of gonococcal arthritis will usually entail a review of the symptoms and a couple of diagnostic tests to determine the presence of the gonorrhea infection.
These are the tests that might be performed to check for the presence of gonorrhea:
- Throat culture (swab of tissue sample from throat is checked for bacteria)
- Cervical gram strain (sample from cervix is removed for detailed analysis)
- Urine/Blood test
In case the doctor confirms the presence of gonorrhea they will likely remove a sample of the joint fluid for detailed testing.
Gonococcal Arthritis Treatment
The treatment for gonococcal arthritis means treating the underlying medical condition of gonorrhea in order to relieve the symptoms.
The doctor will initially choose to administer oral antibiotics. However, some strains of the gonorrhea bacteria become resistant to the drug and the doctor will have a choice of different antibiotics to choose from.
Normally, the doctor will inject a strong antibiotic and combine it with a longer-lasting oral antibiotic medicine.
The doctor will perform tests after a week from the treatment to check for the progress rate of infection treatment.
Most patients feel relief from the symptoms usually within the first 2-3 days after the surgery and make a full recovery fast. However, if left untreated this infection can lead to various complications, including chronic joint pain.
Preventing Gonococcal Arthritis
The best way to prevent contracting gonococcal arthritis (or even gonorrhea) is the use of safe sex practices. Regular testing is also advised in case you are sexually more active.
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