A joint is the meeting point of two bones in the body which permits the bending and other movements done with the body. When the joint is inflamed and becomes painful as a result of infections, it is said to be arthritic.
Arthritis caused by a likely case of gonorrhea is known as gonococcal arthritis. It is facilitated by Neisseria gonorrhea, the causative organism of gonorrhea. Scientists agree that untreated gonorrhea has gonococcal arthritis as one of its complications. Gonococcal arthritis is a common joint disease in the United States. About 82,000 fresh cases of gonorrhea are reported yearly in the United States alone showing that it is one of the most commonly reported communicable diseases affecting young men and women in the country.
Neisseria gonorrhea can be found in large quantities in the cervix, eyes, urethra, pharynx, and rectum of an infected person. Also, infected pregnant women can pass the infection to their babies if not treated before the birthing period.
How can gonococcal arthritis arise?
Most known cases of gonococcal arthritis happen when Neisseria gonorrhea spreads to the bloodstream after which it affects other parts of the body of the host. In those cases, it is called ‘disseminated gonococcal infection.’ The joints mainly affected are those of the wrists, hands, ankles, and feet.
Note that young sexually active persons are very much at risk of getting infected with gonorrhea that can lead to gonococcal arthritis. Many in this category of persons are usually skeptical about getting screened for gonorrhea for fear of being found out and stigmatized. Others are simply unaware of any screening activity available in their vicinity. For both cases, gonorrhea contracted is left untreated and can develop into gonococcal arthritis. The various sexual intercourse modes that make a person susceptible to gonorrhea are vaginal sex, oral sex, and anal sex.
A baby can get infected during its birth as it passes through the mother's cervix through to the vagina where the bacteria is fully resident. Women and girls who have many sexual partners or new partners with unknown sexual histories can get infected with gonorrhea too. Furthermore, unsafe sex where condoms are infrequently used is a huge risk for contracting gonorrhea. In the male population, men who have sex with other men are the worst hit persons by gonorrheal infection.
Symptoms of gonococcal arthritis
Gonorrhea is without definite symptoms considering that many infected persons are asymptomatic to the disease. Therefore, it is fruitless waiting to see certain signs of the infection manifest before ascertaining that it is present. The asymptomatic nature gives it the covering to spread undetected and then it only becomes noticeable with accompanying complications of which gonococcal arthritis is one of them.
Symptoms of the disease include:
- Inflamed joints, which appear reddish and swollen
- Painless and non-itchy lesions
- Skin rashes that develop into pus-containing sores
- Difficulty in body movement
- A restricted area of movement
Infected babies have symptoms such as:
- Uncoordinated and spontaneous movement of their arms and legs as a result of joint abnormalities
- Difficulty in eating
- General body discomfort
Factors that can put a person at a risk of getting gonococcal arthritis are:
- Unprotected sex and infrequent use of condoms
- Casual sex
- Having a sex partner with an STD (especially in older women above 25 years of age)
- Injected drug abuse
- HIV infection
- Low socioeconomic status
- Low educational status
- Problems with the body's immunity
Complications of gonococcal arthritis
Untreated gonococcal arthritis can result in irreversible joint damage, inflammation of the bone muscles, and meningitis.
Testing for gonococcal arthritis
To test for the infection, samples of the areas of the body where Neisseria gonorrhea can be commonly found are collected for tissue culture. These include blood, urethra, rectum, cervix, and pharynx samples. Pharynx sample is suggested for pregnant women and for men who have sex with other men. Culture tests also detect the strain of the Neisseria gonorrhea which causes arthritis for a more targeted antibiotic treatment.
To confirm culture tests, the Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs) are used. NAATs can be done on the tissues from the skin, synovial membrane, and the urethra. However, the test does not check for antibiotics sensitivity to the strain of bacteria causing the infection.
Treatment for gonococcal arthritis
Antibiotics are the drugs of choice for the disease. Infected persons are hospitalized and placed on bed rest for proper treatment and close monitoring. Usually, the joints are drained of synovial fluids that are already filled with pus.
The antibiotics given are the duo of ceftriaxone and azithromycin.
Obviously, gonorrhea has complications that could be impairing movements in a person. The best foolproof way of escaping such a complication alongside other unpleasant ones is to get screened. Rapid test kits for gonorrhea can give you fast results that are life-saving at the end.