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Arthritis health centre

Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis causes redness, swelling and inflammation in places around the body, including the joints, eyes and the urethra - the tube that takes urine out of the body.

Reactive arthritis used to be called Reiter's syndrome.

What causes reactive arthritis?

It still isn’t known exactly why some people develop reactive arthritis, but causes or triggers are thought to be:

What are the symptoms of reactive arthritis?

Reactive arthritis symptoms are usually experienced within 4 weeks of being infected.

Symptoms affecting the joints include:

  • Painful joints
  • Tender joints
  • Stiff joints, often at the start of the day
  • Swollen joints - often affecting the body's weight-bearing joints, the knees, feet and ankles
  • Lower back pain
  • Painful buttocks
  • Swollen toes and fingers.

Symptoms affecting the urinary system include:

Symptoms affecting the eyes include:

General symptoms include:

How is reactive arthritis diagnosed?

Seek medical advice if you have symptoms that may suggest reactive arthritis.

A doctor will diagnose the condition based on the symptoms, medical history, a physical examination and asking about possible causes, such as recent infections.

Tests may be arranged to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out other conditions.

Tests may include:

How is reactive arthritis treated?

There is no specific treatment to cure reactive arthritis, but medication may be given to relieve individual symptoms.

Underlying infections thought to have caused the condition may also be treated, such as antibiotics for sexually transmitted infections.

What is the outlook for people with reactive arthritis?

Most people get better from reactive arthritis in around 6 months.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 13, 2016

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