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Quick Facts

Reactive Arthritis


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020
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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?

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?

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:

  • Mild fever

  • 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:

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 STD

  • 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:

If you have symptoms of an intestinal infection or an STD, 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:

Physical therapy may help to keep joints loose.

Eye and skin problems related to reactive arthritis don't usually need to be treated.

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