Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis /RA/ is a condition characterized by joint pain and swelling, due to infection in another part of the body – most often the intestines, genitals or the urinary tract.

Most commonly affected are the knees, ankle joints and feet. The inflammation can also involve the eyes, skin and urethra.

Although RA is sometimes called Reiter’s syndrome, this syndrome is actually a specific type of RA. In Reiter’s syndrome, the inflammation usually affects the eyes, the urethra, and the joints.

RA is not common. In most people, the clinical manifestations of joint inflammation appear paroxysmally /in attacks/, which subside completely in a period of about 12 months.

What are the symptoms?

The signs and symptoms of RA usually begin after the infection that causes it occurs.

Most often they are expressed in:

• Pain and stiffness – joint pain associated with RA is most commonly felt in the knees, ankles and feet. Painful sensations may be experienced by the affected person in the heels, waist or buttocks.

Inflammation of the eyes – many of those affected develop eye inflammation /conjunctivitis/;

• Urinary symptoms – increased frequency and discomfort during urination, which may be due to inflammation of the prostate gland or cervix;

Swelling of the fingers of the limbs – in some cases the fingers swell so much that they begin to resemble sausages;

What are the causes?

Because the infection that causes RA may be so mild that the affected person may not suspect its presence and, accordingly, that it is precisely the cause of the inflammation of the joints.< /p>

Many bacteria can cause RA.

The most common pathogens of joint inflammation are:

• Chlamydia
• Salmonella
• Shigella
• Yersinia
• Campylobacter

RA is not contagious. However, the bacteria that activate it can be transmitted sexually or through contaminated food.

But only some people exposed to these bacteria develop RA.

Several risk-increasing factors have been identified:

• Age – RA occurs most often in people aged 20-40.

• Gender – the degree of involvement is the same in both sexes when RA is activated as a result of intestinal infections.

But men are more prone to developing joint inflammation as a result of sexually transmitted bacteria.

• Hereditary factors – a specific genetic marker has been identified that is associated with RA. But many people who are carriers never develop RA.

Treatment of reactive arthritis

The goal of treatment is to control symptoms as much as possible and to treat any infections that could be RA triggers.


If RA is caused by a bacterial infection, doctors prescribe antibiotics, with the class of antibiotics being determined based on the type of bacteria found in the affected person’s body.

To alleviate the manifestations of RA, doctors most often recommend:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as indomethacin can limit the severity of pain and inflammation.

Corticosteroids – injecting corticosteroids into the affected joints can reduce inflammation and allow the patient to return to their normal level of physical activity;

• Medicines used for rheumatoid arthritis – there is some limited scientific evidence that medicines such as sulfasalazine, methotrexate or etanercept can also relieve stiffness in some people with RA.


Exercise is usually effective in improving joint function because it helps strengthen the muscles around the affected joints.

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