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Reactive Arthritis or Reiter’s Syndrome

Reactive Arthritis or Reiter’s Syndrome: Risk factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Reactive arthritis is caused due to some infection in other parts of the body commonly in the stomach, intestine or genitals causing joint pain and swelling. It is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis.

Reactive arthritis mainly affects the knee joints, ankle, and feet. Sometimes inflammation of eyes, skin, and urethra can also be seen. It was previously known as Reiter’s disease and now it belongs to the spondyloarthritis group. The symptoms are usually self-limiting and the symptoms are gone within 12 months.


Symptoms:

The incubation period of reactive arthritis is 4 to 5 weeks. The symptoms include the following:

  • Pain and stiffness of joints are commonly associated with reactive arthritis. The pain usually in knees, ankles, and feet. Pain is also experienced in buttocks, low back, and heels.
  • Conjunctivitis is also common in people suffering from reactive arthritis.
  • Increased frequency of micturition along with discomfort after passing urine. Inflammation of prostate in males and inflammation of the cervix in females is also seen.
  • Inflammation of soft tissues, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Swelling of fingers and toes sometimes reassembling a sausage.
  • Rashes on soles and palms.
  • The mouth is sore.
  • Pain in lower back worse at night or in the morning.

Causes:

It happens as a reaction to infections often in the urinary tract, intestine or genitals. Numerous bacteria that cause reactive arthritis are either sexually transmitted or are foodborne. The common bacteria which causes reactive arthritis are:

  • Salmonella
  • Chlamydia
  • Shigella
  • Yersinia
  • Campylobacter
  • Clostridium difficile

Although this disease is not contagious the bacteria can be transmitted either through food or sexually. However, getting infected by the bacteria does not mean that you will necessarily develop the disease. There are chances that you will not suffer from reactive arthritis.

Risk factors:

Factors that increase the risk of developing the condition:

  • People between 20 to 40 years are at higher risk.
  • Men are more likely to develop reactive arthritis caused due to sexually transmitted diseases than women, however, both the sexes are at equal risk of developing reactive arthritis because of foodborne infections.
  • Hereditary
Complications:

The prognosis is usually very good. The chances of suffering from complications associated with reactive arthritis reduce significantly if the condition is diagnosed at an early stage and proper treatment is done to curb away its symptoms. The complications include the following:

  • Conjunctivitis or inflammation of the conjunctiva.
  • Inflammation of the prostate gland.
  • Skin rash.
  • Pain and stiffness in joints.

Prevention

Reactive arthritis can be prevented considerably if one avoids sexually transmitted infections. Eating healthy and hygienic food prevents changes of getting infected from foodborne infections.

Self-care:

  • Take enough rest
  • Avoid affected joints
  • Do stretching exercises to strengthen affected muscles.
  • Use knee pads and splints to protect joints.
  • Use an ice pack or apply heat fermentation to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Exercise as advised by the doctor.

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