American Hospital Blog

Reactive Arthritis

Reactive Arthritis

Reactive arthritis causes joint pain and swelling due to an infection in another part of the body like the intestines, genitals or urinary tract.
 
Reactive arthritis may target the knees and the joints of the ankles and feet. Inflammation in this condition may also harm the eyes, skin and urethra, also known as Reiter's syndrome. 
 
This condition isn't common, and in most cases, the signs may come and go, ultimately disappearing within 12 months.

Understand the symptoms

Reactive arthritis may begin within four weeks after exposure to a triggering infection. This may include:
 
• Pain and stiffness in the joints, mainly in the knees, ankles and feet, sometimes even in the heels, lower back or buttocks.
• Eye inflammation (conjunctivitis) may occur.
• Urinary problems, such as increased frequency and discomfort during urination, inflammation of the prostate gland or cervix can happen. 
• Inflammation occurs in soft tissue that enters the bone (enthesitis), including the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
• Toes or fingers might get swollen.
• Skin problems like a rash on the soles, palms and mouth sores may be seen.
• Low back pain tends to worsen at night or in the morning.

Consult the doctor

Talk to your doctor when the joint pain begins within a month of having diarrhea or genital infection.

Know the causes

An infection in the body, mainly in the intestines, genitals or urinary tract, causes reactive arthritis. When there are mild symptoms, you may not know the triggering infection. 
 
However, several bacteria can lead to reactive arthritis, like those transmitted sexually and with contaminated food. These may include chlamydia, salmonella, shigella, yersinia, campylobacter and clostridium difficile.

Recognise the risk

The factors that raise the risk of reactive arthritis are age, mostly in adults between 20 and 40. Hereditary factors like a specific genetic marker are linked to reactive arthritis, but many never develop the condition. Foodborne infections may develop equally in women and men, but sexually transmitted bacteria are more likely to develop in men than in women. 

Measures for prevention

People with a specific genetic factor are more likely to develop reactive arthritis. Even though one can't change the genetic makeup, you can lessen the exposure to the bacteria that leads to reactive arthritis with these steps. Using condoms may lower the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Ensure the food is stored at proper temperatures and appropriately cooked to prevent foodborne bacteria.  

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