Acute venereal arthritis, a syndrome of fever and inflammatory arthritis following recent sexual intercourse, is a frequently misdiagnosed arthritic presentation. Nearly half of 39 patients admitted with a diagnosis of acute gonococcal arthritis were subsequently recognized as having acute Reiter syndrome. A retrospective study of both diseases revealed differentiating features that, when prospectively applied to 21 consecutive patients, permitted a correct and prompt bedside diagnosis.
Acute Reiter syndrome could be differentiated by characteristic mucocutaneous lesions, arthritis/tenosynovitis confined to lower extremities, massive recurrent knee effusions, low back pain, conjunctivitis, and genitourinary inflammation. Gonococcal arthritis could be differentiated by migratory arthralgias, high fevers, arthritis/tenosynovitis initially confined to upper extremities, typical cutaneous lesions, and dramatic defervescence to penicillin therapy. Laboratory data provided support for each diagnosis.
(Arch Intern Med 137:858-862, 1977)