Arthritis is a group of diseases that makes your joints hurt, swell up, and turn red. There are many different types of arthritis.
What is reactive 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 Infectious Arthritis Arthritis is inflammation in a joint. There are many types of arthritis. Infectious arthritis is arthritis caused by a bacterial infection in a joint. Your joint can get infected if another... read more .
Symptoms include joint pain and swelling
You may also have swollen tendons, back pain, a rash, or red eyes
Symptoms develop within a few days or weeks after you have an infection in your intestines (gastroenteritis Gastroenteritis Gastroenteritis is inflammation of your stomach and intestines. Gastroenteritis is usually caused by an infection with a virus or bacteria You feel very sick to your stomach, throw up, and have... read more ) or a sexually transmitted infection (STI Overview of Sexually Transmitted Infections STIs are infections that are passed from person to person through sexual contact, including oral sex. STIs may be caused by different types of germs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and... read more )
Doctors can usually tell if you have reactive arthritis from your symptoms and an exam
Medicines may help treat your symptoms
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.
What causes reactive arthritis?
Two types of infection cause most reactive arthritis:
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs Overview of Sexually Transmitted Infections STIs are infections that are passed from person to person through sexual contact, including oral sex. STIs may be caused by different types of germs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and... read more ), most often in men 20 to 40 years old
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.
What are the symptoms of reactive arthritis?
The most common symptoms are:
Pain, swelling, redness, and warmth of one or more joints, usually in your legs
Pain and swelling of the ligaments and tendons around a joint
Back pain, if the disease is severe
Along with the joint pain, you may feel generally sick with symptoms like:
Feeling tired and run down
No appetite and losing weight
You might also have problems that don't involve your joints. For example, you may have:
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:
Pain when you pee or a discharge from your vagina or penis if you have an STI
Diarrhea, if you have an infection in your intestines
How can doctors tell if I have reactive arthritis?
Doctors can tell if you have reactive arthritis based on your symptoms and by doing an exam. Doctors may also do:
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 STI, doctors will test you for those infections.
How do doctors treat reactive arthritis?
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 Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more 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.