Arthritis is a group of diseases that makes your joints hurt, swell up, and turn red. There are many different types of arthritis.
Reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis that develops as a reaction to an infection somewhere in your body. Reactive arthritis is different from an actual infection inside a joint.
In most people, reactive arthritis disappears in 3 or 4 months. Half of people have symptoms that come and go over several years. The joints and spine may become deformed if symptoms don't go away or come back regularly. A few people who have reactive arthritis become permanently disabled.
Two types of infection cause most reactive arthritis:
But most people who have these infections don’t get reactive arthritis. A specific gene that runs in families may cause some people to get reactive arthritis while others don't.
The most common symptoms are:
Along with the joint pain, you may feel generally sick with symptoms like:
You might also have problems that don't involve your joints. For example, you may have:
Red, irritated eyes and sometimes trouble seeing (uveitis)
Sores in your mouth
A hard, thick rash on your skin, especially on your palms and soles and around your nails
Sometimes the infection that caused the reactive arthritis hasn't gone away. You may still have:
Doctors can tell if you have reactive arthritis based on your symptoms and by doing an exam. Doctors may also do:
X-rays to see how damaged your joints are
Tests to rule out other diseases that can cause arthritis
Sometimes, tests to look at fluid from a swollen joint
If you have symptoms of an intestinal infection or an STD, doctors will test you for those infections.
Doctors treat the infection that led to the reactive arthritis if it hasn't already gone away.
Doctors may prescribe medicines to help relieve joint pain and other symptoms, including:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve joint pain and swelling
Corticosteroid injections into swollen joints
Sometimes, medicines that work on your immune system to lessen inflammation
Physical therapy may help to keep joints loose.
Eye and skin problems related to reactive arthritis don't usually need to be treated.