What is gonococcal arthritis?

Gonococcal arthritis is a rare complication of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) gonorrhea. It generally causes painful inflammation of the joints and tissues. Gonorrhea is a very common STI, especially among teens and young adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are 820,000 new infections in the United States each year.

Gonorrhea is usually spread through sexual contact, but babies can also contract it from their mothers during childbirth. Common symptoms include painful urination, pain during intercourse, pelvic pain, and discharge from the vagina or penis. Gonorrhea infections can also produce no symptoms whatsoever.

In many cases, gonorrhea causes no symptoms, so you may not be aware that you have it. Gonococcal arthritis can occur in the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and, rarely, in axial skeletal joints (bones of the head and trunk). It can affect many joints or a single joint.

Symptoms may include:

red and swollen joints
joints that are tender or painful, especially when you move
restricted joint range-of-motion
skin lesions
In infants, symptoms may include:

difficulty feeding
spontaneous movement of a limb