What is Disseminated Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea. Science Picture Co/Collection Mix: Subjects/Getty Images

Question: What is a disseminated gonorrhea infection or disseminated gonococcal infection?

As problems with antibiotic resistance grow, treatment for gonorrhea is becoming less and less effective. Ineffective gonorrhea treatment can increase the duration of an infection and lead to problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease and disseminated gonorrhea infections. However, being infected with antibiotic resistant gonorrhea does not inherently increase your risk of long-term gonorrhea complications.

It's effective treatment that matters, not whether your infection needs to be treated with one antibiotic or another.

Answer: A disseminated gonorrhea infection is a gonorrhea infection that has spread throughout the body.

Although gonorrhea infections are usually associated with the genitals, the throat, or the rectum,  gonorrhea complications can sometimes cause the infection to spread throughout the body. Such disseminated gonorrhea infections occur in up to 3 percent of individuals infected by gonorrhea. These infections may also be referred to as disseminated gonococcal infections -- after the type of bacteria that cause gonorrhea.

Disseminated gonorrhea is more common in women than men - possibly because women are more likely than men to be asymptomatic during their initial infection and thus less likely to seek treatment before suffering from gonorrhea complications. However, it's also worth noting that disseminated gonorrhea infections can be very difficult to detect with standard gonorrhea tests, such as those done on swabs or urine samples.

Disseminated gonorrhea infections most often present as arthritis - aching and swelling in the joints. However, they can also cause skin lesions and infections of the heart, bones, and the sheaths that cover the nervous system (meninges). In rare cases, disseminated gonorrhea can cause a lupus flare-up or even be fatal.

Fortunately, once infections are identified, disseminated gonorrhea is usually easy to treat with antibiotics; however, is becoming less true as antibiotic resistant gonorrhea strains become more common.

Did You Know: Gonorrhea was once the leading cause of arthritis in the United States.


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