Reactive Arthritis (Reiter's Syndrome)
What is reactive
Reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs because of an infection.
Arthritis is when joints become inflamed and painful. Reactive arthritis is not
contagious. It was formerly known as Reiter’s syndrome. It affects men more often than
women. It develops most often between ages 20 and 50.
What causes reactive
Reactive arthritis is not contagious, but it’s caused by some infections that are
contagious. The infections that most often cause the disease are spread through sexual
contact. The bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. It can cause infections in the bladder,
urethra, penis, or vagina.
infections that can cause reactive arthritis infect the gut. One cause is salmonella.
This infection can come from eating food or handling objects that have the bacteria.
Reactive arthritis may also be linked to genes. People with reactive arthritis often
have the HLA-B27 gene. But many people have this gene without getting reactive
Who is at risk for reactive
factors for getting reactive arthritis include:
an infection from sexual contact
an illness from contaminated food
What are the symptoms of reactive
Reactive arthritis may cause arthritis symptoms, such as joint pain and inflammation.
It can also cause urinary tract symptoms and eye infection (conjunctivitis). Symptoms
can last from 3 to 12 months. In a small number of people, the symptoms may turn into
chronic disease. Symptoms can happen a bit differently in each person, and may
- Joint pain and inflammation that often
affect the knees, feet, and ankles
- Inflammation of a tendon that is attached to
bone. This may cause heel pain or shortening and thickening of the
- Bony growths in the heel (heel spurs) that
can cause chronic pain
- Inflammation of the spine (spondylitis)
- Inflammation of the lower back joints
Urinary tract symptoms
- Increased urine
- Burning sensation during urination
- Discharge from penis
- Inflamed prostate gland (prostatitis)
- Inflamed cervix
- Inflamed urethra. This causes a burning
sensation during urination.
- Inflamed fallopian tubes (salpingitis)
- Inflamed vulva and vagina
- Red eyes
- Painful and irritated eyes
- Blurry vision
- Inflamed mucous membrane that covers the
eyeball and eyelid (conjunctivitis)
- Inflammation of the inner eye (uveitis)
The symptoms of reactive arthritis can
be like other health conditions. Make sure to see your healthcare provider for a
How is reactive arthritis
process starts with a health history and a physical exam. Diagnosis can be difficult.
This is because there are no specific tests that can confirm the condition. Some blood
tests may be done to rule out other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Other tests may include:
sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate). This test looks at how quickly red
blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube. When swelling and inflammation are
present, the blood’s proteins clump together and become heavier than normal. They
fall and settle faster at the bottom of the test tube. The faster the blood cells
fall, the more severe the inflammation.
- Tests for
infections. This includes a test for chlamydia. It may also include tests for
other infections that are linked to reactive arthritis.
aspiration (arthrocentesis). A small sample of the synovial fluid is taken
from a joint. It’s tested to see if crystals, bacteria, or viruses are present.
- Urine and
stool samples. These are used to look for bacteria or other signs of
- X-rays. This test uses a small amount of radiation to create images of tissues,
bones, and organs. X-rays are used to look for swelling or damage to the joint. This
can check for signs of spondylitis or sacroiliitis.
testing. A test may be done to check for HLA-B27.
You may also have testing to rule out other forms of arthritis.
How is reactive arthritis
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on
how severe the condition is. Treatment may also include:
- Antibiotics to treat the infection
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce inflammation
- Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
- Immunosuppressive medicines such as methotrexate to control inflammation
biological immunosuppressants given as a shot
- Rest to
ease pain and inflammation
to strengthen muscles and improve joint function
What are the complications of
main symptoms of reactive arthritis will often go away in a few months. Some people may
have mild arthritis symptoms for up to a year. Others may develop mild, long-term
arthritis. Up to half of people will have a flare-up of reactive arthritis in the
future. In rare cases, the condition may lead to chronic, severe arthritis. This can
lead to joint damage.
When should I call my healthcare
your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, let your healthcare provider know.
Key points about reactive
arthritis is a type of arthritis caused by an infection. It may be caused by
Chlamydia trachomatis, salmonella, or another infection.
condition may cause arthritis symptoms, such as joint pain and inflammation. It may
also cause symptoms in the urinary tract and eyes.
- Treatment includes antibiotics for the infection, plus medicines to reduce the joint
pain and inflammation.
people recover fully from reactive arthritis.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
name of the test or procedure
reason you are having the test or procedure
results to expect and what they mean
risks and benefits of the test or procedure
the possible side effects or complications are
- When and
where you are to have the test or procedure
will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
alternative tests or procedures to think about
- When and
how will you get the results
- Who to
call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
- How much
will you have to pay for the test or procedure