Gonorrhoea and Joint Pain

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One of the most common complications of a Gonorrhoea infection is joint pain, which comes as a surprise to most people. It may be a sexually transmitted disease but a third of people with the infection report that they are experiencing joint pain. This usually occurs in people who have not yet received treatment for a Gonococcal infection therefore it has spread throughout the body and affected the joints. Women are more likely to be affected by this complication than men and it is reported mostly in young teenage girls.  The joint pain is classified as either a joint infection, septic arthritis, purulent arthritis or a disseminated gonococcal infection.

What causes the joint pain?

If you are experiencing joint pain and may have been exposed to Gonorrhoea previously, then there is a chance that the bacteria that causes gonorrhoea has spread to your joints.  If untreated, the bacteria spreads around your body to different joints where it multiplies and divides in the mucosal cells that are in the joint. This causes severe joint pain at the areas infected and can lead to arthritic problems in the near future. There are two types of joint infection that the bacteria Neissera gonorrhoeae causes. The first is where more than one joint is infected and pus from infection builds up within the joint causing inflammation and a great deal of pain. The main joints that are likely to be affected are the extremities so the toes, fingers, wrists and ankles. The knee is also usually affected. The other type of infection is just localised to one joint, which is much less common. This has the same sort of effect on the joint causing pain due to the infection within the cells at the area.

What are the symptoms?

Aside from joint pain there are a number of symptoms that you can look out for which point towards a gonococcal infection. These include:

  • Swollen tendons
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Swelling of the joints
  • There is a chance a mild rash may develop.

How is a joint infection diagnosed?

If you are experiencing joint pain then you must get a doctors consultation. If you suspect that it may be caused due to a Gonorrhoea infection then you must also tell the doctor this news because you will need to be treated for any other infection in your body. Once you have explained your symptoms to a doctor then they will usually want to take a sample to determine what type of infection is causing the joint pain. This is done by drawing out a fluid sample from the infected joints so they can then perform a culture test upon the sample to identify the bacteria present. They can do this by looking at the shape and size of the bacteria present in the sample. They might also perform a gram stain, which also identifies bacteria based on the structure of their cell wall.

How is joint pain treated?

Once diagnosed as a Gonorrhoea infection then antibiotics such as Cefixime or Azithromycin must be administered. This usually needs to be given either intravenously or intramuscularly. Depending on the size and duration of the infection, the antibiotic course may be as little as 3 days or last up to two weeks. Treatment is usually effective and most people fully recover.

As a Gonorrhoea infection has caused joint pain, then you will be tested to check that the infection is not elsewhere in your body as the bacteria in your joints have usually come from an earlier gonococcal infection. This is usually in the form of a genital tract infection. To avoid any further complications, testing is done to ensure all Gonorrhoea infections have been taken care of. It is also important that any sexual partners are tested to confirm they are free from infection.

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