Northside Health Library

Gonococcal arthritis


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)


Gonococcal arthritis is an infection of a joint. It occurs in people who have gonorrhea caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It affects women more often than men, and it is most common among sexually active adolescent girls.

Two forms of gonococcal arthritis exist:

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


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:


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 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 that the infection was cured.

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 a person who you know does not have any sexually transmitted disease (STD) can reduce your risk. Monogamous means you and your partner do not have sex with any other people.

You can greatly lower your risk of infection with 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.

Treating all sexual partners is essential to prevent re-infection.


Ohl CA. Infectious arthritis of native joints. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 102.

Shrestha RK, Englund K. Infectious disease. In: Carey WD, ed. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine 2010. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:section 8.

Workowski KA, Berman S: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). SExually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. 2010. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2010; 59(RR-12):1-110.

Review Date: 6/9/2011
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, 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.

Northside Hospital - Atlanta

1000 Johnson Ferry Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30342
(404) 851-8000

Northside Hospital - Cherokee

201 Hospital Road
Canton, GA 30114
(770) 720-5100

Northside Hospital - Forsyth

1200 Northside Forsyth Drive
Cumming, GA 30041
(770) 844-3200

Copyright © 2015 Northside Hospital|Privacy Policy