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Diseases reference index «Gonococcal arthritis»

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

See also: Non-gonococcal bacterial arthritis


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


  • Fever
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Migrating joint pain for 1 to 4 days
  • Pain in the hands or wrists due to tendon inflammation
  • Pain or burning on urination
  • Single joint pain
  • Skin rash (lesions are slightly raised, pink to red, may later contain pus or appear purple)

Exams 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:

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


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.

Outlook (Prognosis)

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

Possible Complications

Untreated, this condition may lead to persistent joint pain.

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

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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


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.

Alternative Names

Disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI)

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