Reactive arthritis, also known as Reiter's syndrome, is a type of arthritis that occurs as a reaction to an infection somewhere in the body. Most infections that cause the disease originate in the genitourinary tract (the bladder, urethra, penis, or vagina) and are spread through sexual intercourse, a form of the disease called genitourinary Reiter's syndrome, or urogenital Reiter's syndrome. Other infections that can cause reactive arthritis include gastrointestinal infections due to eating contaminated food or handling contaminated substances, a form of the disease called gastrointestinal Reiter's syndrome, or enteric Reiter's syndrome.
Reactive arthritis is characterized by inflamed joints and affects mostly young men, between the ages of 20 and 40. Although researchers are not sure why some people develop reactive arthritis in response to certain infections, a genetic factor (presence of the HLA-B27 gene) seems to increase the risk.
Reactive arthritis, or Reiter's syndrome, is usually preceded by an infection caused by bacteria, such as Chlamydia trachomatis, a sexually transmitted disease; or salmonella, a bacteria that can contaminate foods. It is important to note that the disease reactive arthritis itself is not contagious, but, rather, the bacteria that causes it. About 80 percent of people with the tendency to develop this disease have a special gene marker called HLA-B27.
Reactive arthritis may cause arthritic symptoms, such as joint pain and inflammation, as well as urinary tract symptoms and conjunctivitis (eye infection). The following are the most common symptoms of reactive arthritis. Any of these symptoms may occur alone, together or not at all. Symptoms typically last three to 12 months, but may develop into chronic disease in a small percentage of people. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
|Urinary tract symptoms||Men:
The symptoms of reactive arthritis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis of reactive arthritis may be difficult, because there are no specific laboratory tests that can confirm it. However, diagnosis may be confirmed based on a personal medical history and reported symptoms. Certain blood tests may be performed to rule out other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Other diagnostic tests may include:
Specific treatment for reactive arthritis will be determined by your doctor based on:
Treatment usually includes antibiotics to treat the infection that is causing the reactive arthritis symptoms. Treatment may also include:
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