Reactive arthritis, also known as Reiter’s syndrome, is a type of inflammatory arthritis that develops in response to an infection in another part of the body. This process is called autoimmunity. It can occur due to an infection in the urinary tract, intestines, or other organs.

Symptoms include swelling and pain in the joints, especially the knees, ankles, and feet. Sometimes, it can also affect the eyes, skin, and urethra. Most of the time, the symptoms of reactive arthritis appear and disappear, vary over time, or simply get less over time. But some people may also have long-term joint pain.

Diagnosing reactive arthritis can be challenging because there is no specific test to confirm it. Treatment involves managing symptoms, reducing inflammation, and treating any underlying infections. It usually includes medications, physiotherapy, and in some cases, surgery.

Reactive Arthritis

It’s important to note that reactive arthritis can happen to anyone, but it’s more common in men and often occurs between ages 20 and 50. It’s also more likely to occur in people who have certain genes that affect the immune system.

Causes of Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis, previously known as Reiter’s syndrome, is a type of inflammatory arthritis that develops in response to an infection in another part of the body. This kind of arthritis occurs most commonly following a bacterial infection in the urinary, genital, or digestive system.

While the exact cause of reactive arthritis is not fully understood, it’s known that certain infections can trigger it. These infections include:

1. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia can result in reactive arthritis.
2. Bacterial food poisoning bacteria such as salmonella, shigella, yersinia, or campylobacter which cause food poisoning can also cause reactive arthritis.

There is also evidence to suggest that some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing reactive arthritis. Specific genetic markers, such as the HLA-B27 gene, are found more commonly in people with the condition.

It’s important to understand that while the triggering infection can be passed from person to person, reactive arthritis itself is not contagious. Not everyone who gets the triggering infections will go on to develop reactive arthritis, and why it happens in some people and not others is still not completely understood.

Risk Factors of Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis, also known as Reiter’s Syndrome, is a form of arthritis that causes inflammation, pain, and swelling in various places in the body, usually as a reaction to an infection. Several risk factors may contribute to the development of reactive arthritis:

1. Infection: This is the primary cause, particularly infections of the sexual organs, urinary tract or the intestines. Common bacteria that cause this are Chlamydia, Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, and Campylobacter.

2. Gender: Men are more likely to develop reactive arthritis than women.

3. Age: It’s most common among younger and sexually active individuals, typically people in their 20s and 30s.

4. Genetic factors: Certain genetic markers are associated with an increased risk of developing reactive arthritis. In particular, the HLA-B27 gene has been identified as a common factor in people who have the disease.

5. Sexual Behavior: Individuals with risky sexual behaviors have a higher chance of contracting sexually transmitted infections, which could potentially trigger reactive arthritis.

6. Immune system factors: Certain abnormal reactions of the immune system can also trigger this condition.

7. Environmental factors: While the exact relationship is not yet understood fully, exposure to certain environmental factors and a subsequent reaction in the immune system may lead to reactive arthritis.

Please note that not everyone with these risk factors will get reactive arthritis, and not everyone who gets the condition will have had these risks. It is always essential to consult a healthcare professional to understand your personal risk and possible preventive measures.

Signs and Symptoms of Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis, also known as Reiter’s syndrome, is a form of arthritis that occurs as a reaction to an infection elsewhere in the body. It usually affects the knees, ankles, and feet, causing inflammation and resulting in pain and swelling.

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of reactive arthritis:

1. Joint pain and swelling: This is usually the first symptom. The ankles, knees, and feet are often affected, though the hands, wrists and elbows can also be involved.

2. Inflammation of the urinary tract: This can cause increased frequency of urination, discomfort during urination, or discharge from the urethra.

3. Eye inflammation (conjunctivitis): Symptoms can include redness, irritation, and blurred vision.

4. Heel pain: This is due to inflammation of the tendon at the back of the ankle (Achilles tendinitis) or under the heel (plantar fasciitis).

5. Skin rashes: These can occur on the hands or feet, and can often be mistaken for psoriasis.

6. Mouth ulcers: Small, painless sores inside the mouth.

7. Fever and weight loss.

8. Fatigue: Feeling tired or rundown.

It’s important to remember that symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. Some people with reactive arthritis may have mild, temporary discomfort, while others may experience severe, long-lasting symptoms. If you’re experiencing symptoms that seem like they could be related to reactive arthritis, it’s important to visit a doctor or a rheumatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosis Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis, formerly known as Reiter’s syndrome, is a form of inflammatory arthritis that occurs as a “reaction” to an infection in another part of the body. The bacteria most often associated with reactive arthritis are those that cause infections of the genitals (Chlamydia trachomatis) or gut (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella and Yersinia).

The infection can start after a person experiences a bout of diarrhea or sexually transmitted diseases. In a small number of individuals, the immune system, which was meant to fight off these infections, triggers an inflammatory response that can cause joint pain and swelling.

Symptoms of reactive arthritis most commonly involve the joints, eyes, and urinary tract (urethra). Symptoms may come on gradually or suddenly and may range from mild to severe.

Diagnosis of reactive arthritis is mainly clinically based. There is no specific laboratory test to diagnose reactive arthritis, but the doctor might use certain tests to rule out other conditions or to confirm diagnosis, including Joint fluid tests, Blood tests and Imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI.

Treatment for reactive arthritis is primarily aimed at relieving symptoms and managing the underlying infection that triggered the disease. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often first-line treatment. If this doesn’t help, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroid injections, rheumatic drugs or antibiotics.

Reactive arthritis may go away in a few weeks, but occasionally, it may become chronic or long term and could lead to joint damage.

Remember it’s important to contact a healthcare provider if you think you have symptoms of reactive arthritis to get appropriate treatment and help.

Treatment of Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis is an inflammatory condition that usually affects the knees, ankles, and feet, and often develops after an infection in the urinary or genital tract or, less commonly, after intestinal infection. The goal while treating reactive arthritis is to manage the symptoms and treat the underlying infection. Here are the common therapeutic methods:

1. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Most people with reactive arthritis start their treatment with NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These medications may help in reducing inflammation and relieving pain.

2. Antibiotics: If the reactive arthritis was triggered by a bacterial infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. The type of antibiotic depends on the specific infection that triggered the reactive arthritis.

3. Corticosteroid medications: In severe cases, or if there is no response to NSAIDs, corticosteroids might be recommended. These work by decreasing inflammation and reducing the activity of the immune system. These can be taken orally or might be injected into affected joints.

4. Immunosuppressive Medications: In some severe or persistent cases, medications that suppress the immune system might be used, such as sulfasalazine or methotrexate.

5. Physical Therapy: Regular exercise can help improve joint function. A physical therapist can provide exercises to help strengthen the muscles around the affected joint, increase flexibility, and reduce pain.

Reactive Arthritis

Remember, early diagnosis and prompt treatment can help manage the symptoms effectively and prevent complications. It’s crucial to follow your healthcare provider’s advice and maintain regular follow-up.

Medications commonly used for Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis, previously known as Reiter’s syndrome, is a type of arthritis that occurs in response to an infection in another part of the body. Physicians often treat it with a combination of medications designed to manage symptoms and potentially shorten the duration of the disease. Here are some of the commonly used ones:

1. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): These are often the first-line treatment for reactive arthritis and are used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. They include medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).

2. Corticosteroids: These are potent anti-inflammatory drugs that can be useful for severe joint inflammation. They can be taken orally or be injected directly into the affected joint.

3. Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs): If the disease doesn’t respond adequately to NSAIDs, DMARDs such as sulfasalazine or methotrexate may be used to suppress inflammation, particularly when the arthritis is persistent.

4. Antibiotics: If the reactive arthritis was triggered by a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to eliminate the bacteria. They are typically used when the condition is associated with a sexually transmitted infection or gastrointestinal infection.

5. Biologic Agents: In severe cases, or when other treatments don’t work, TNF alpha inhibitors such as etanercept (Enbrel) or infliximab (Remicade) may be used. These inhibit a protein that’s involved in the body’s immune response.

6. Physical therapy: This can help to improve joint function and keep the muscles around the joint strong. While not a medication, physical therapy is still a crucial part of treatment for reactive arthritis.

As with all medications, these can have side effects and their use should be monitored by a healthcare provider. It is also important to discuss with your doctor about the best treatment approach based on your condition and overall health.

Prevention of Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs due to an infection in the body, often in the intestines, genitals, or urinary tract. While specific prevention measures cannot stop the occurrence of the disease entirely, there are ways to limit the risk and prevent its complications:

1. Practice Safe Sex: This reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infections, which can lead to reactive arthritis.

2. Maintain Personal Hygiene: Proper hygiene can help prevent foodborne illnesses. Regular hand washing, especially before handling food, can also reduce the risk of infections.

3. See a Doctor If Needed: If you experience symptoms of an infection, such as diarrhea or painful urination, you should see a health care provider right away. Early detection and treatment of infections can help prevent reactive arthritis.

4. Regular Exercise: Low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling can help keep your joints flexible and prevent the inflammatory effects of arthritis.

5. Healthy Diet: A balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help improve overall health and may reduce inflammation.

6. Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can also help flush toxins from the body and reduce inflammation.

7. Vaccinations: Keeping up-to-date with recommended vaccinations can prevent the infections that cause reactive arthritis.

8. Don’t Smoke: Smoking can increase inflammation in the body, thus worsening reactive arthritis symptoms.

Remember, while these measures lower the risk of reactive arthritis, they can’t eliminate the risk entirely because the condition is primarily a response to an infection. It always helps to seek professional medical advice and treatment if you suspect you have reactive arthritis or any other health condition.

FAQ’s about Reactive arthritis

1. What is Reactive Arthritis?
Reactive arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that often occurs following an infection in another part of the body, most commonly in the abdomen, genitals, or urinary tract. This condition belongs to a group of arthritis-related diseases called spondyloarthritis.

2. What are the symptoms of Reactive Arthritis ?
Symptoms of Reactive arthritis typically include joint pain and swelling, and sometimes conjunctivitis (red, painful eyes) and/or urethritis (a burning sensation during urination). In some cases, symptoms can also include inflammation of the skin or mouth, or severe fatigue.

3. What causes Reactive Arthritis?
It’s often triggered by a bacterial infection (like a sexual transmission or food-borne disease). The exact reason why some people develop it following an infection isn’t clear yet.

4. Who is at risk for developing Reactive Arthritis?
Though it can occur at any age, it’s most common among people aged 20 to 40. It tends to affect more men than women. People who are genetically predisposed (particularly those carrying the HLA-B27 gene) have a higher risk.

5. How is it diagnosed?
There’s no specific test to identify Reactive arthritis. Doctors generally rely on the patient’s medical history and physical examinations and may conduct tests to rule out other conditions. They may also test for the presence of the HLA-B27 gene.

6. What is the treatment for Reactive Arthritis?
While there’s no cure, treatment can significantly reduce symptoms and maintain body functions. Therapies often involve a combination of medication, physical therapy, and possibly surgery in severe cases.

7. Can Reactive Arthritis be prevented?
Since it’s often triggered by infection, prompt treatment of any indications of infection might help to minimize the risk. Safe-sex practices and good hygiene can reduce sexually transmitted infections that could lead to reactive arthritis.

8. Is Reactive Arthritis chronic?
The arthritis often clears up within a few months, but in some cases, the condition can result in longer-term or chronic symptoms.

9. Is it contagious?
While an infection that led to reactive arthritis can be contagious, the condition itself is not.

10. Why is it called “Reactive” Arthritis?
It’s called “reactive” because the arthritis is thought to be a reaction to a bacterial infection in the body.

It’s important to consult with healthcare professionals if you suspect you may have Reactive arthritis or for more specific information related to the condition.

Useful links

Reactive arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis caused by an infection in another part of your body — many times in your intestines, genitals or urinary tract. Here are some useful links on the topic from various scientific journals:


Please note that some of these links may require subscriptions to access the full text of the articles. Always make sure to consult with a healthcare provider for accurate information.

Complications of Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis, previously known as Reiter’s syndrome, is an autoimmune condition that develops in response to an infection in another part of the body. The infection can start in the urinary, genital, or digestive system and then spread, leading to inflammation and symptoms in different areas like the eyes, skin, mouth, and joints.

The complications of reactive arthritis can include:

1. Chronic Arthritis: Even after the triggering infection has been treated, some people may develop chronic arthritis that can last for months or years. This may lead to severe joint damage if left untreated.

2. Eye Inflammation (Conjunctivitis): Conjunctivitis is another common complication of reactive arthritis. It can cause redness and irritation in the eyes, while more severe forms could potentially lead to vision problems.

3. Urinary Problems: These problems may include an increased urgency to urinate or discomfort during urination. Men may experience prostatitis and women may suffer from cervicitis.

4. Skin Problems: Reactive arthritis can cause rashes on the palms or soles, and ulcers in the mouth or on the tongue. In some cases, it may lead to a skin condition called keratoderma blennorrhagica, which leads to thickening and scaling of the skin.

5. Heart Problems: Rarely, reactive arthritis can contribute to inflammation of the aorta and other heart valves which can lead to heart failure.

Early identification and management of symptoms can help prevent or manage these complications. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Home remedies of Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis, formerly known as Reiter’s syndrome, is an inflammatory type of arthritis that occurs in response to an infection in the body. It’s called “reactive” because it’s a reaction to an infection that isn’t in the joints. Please note that while there are home remedies that may help relieve symptoms, they can’t replace medical treatment. Consult your healthcare provider for the appropriate plan. Here are some home remedies:

1. Exercise and Physical Therapy: Regular moderate exercise can help strengthen the muscles around the affected joints, which can help reduce some of the strain on them.

2. Heat and Cold Treatments: Cold compresses can be used to reduce swelling and soothe the affected areas. Meanwhile, warm baths can help to relax muscles and relieve stiffness.

3. Over-the-counter medication: Non-prescription NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can help manage pain and swelling, such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or Naproxen (Aleve).

4. Rest: Rest is important: Without it, your body can’t recover from inflammation and pain. Remember, if a joint is swollen, do not exercise it, as that can cause more harm than good.

5. Healthy Diet: Maintaining a healthy diet is always beneficial for our general health. Increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids via cold water fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts can potentially help reduce inflammation.

6. Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight reduces stress on the joints, potentially relieving some pain.

7. Meditation: It can help manage the pain and reduce sleep disturbances caused by discomfort.

8. Smoking and alcohol: Avoid smoking and limit your alcohol consumption as it may make your condition worse.

Remember that these are simply things you can do at home to alleviate symptoms. It is important that you moreover seek medical attention to treat Reactive Arthritis effectively. Not all home remedies will work for everybody and some may even have adverse reactions in a few individuals. Please always consult with healthcare practitioners before initiating any home treatments.

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Last Update: January 20, 2024