Reactive Arthritis is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis that can affect the joints, heels, toes, fingers, and knees. This disorder typically develops as a complication from an infection in another part of the body, such as Shigella, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Yersinia, or Clostridium foodborne illnesses. The condition can be temporary or last for months or even years.
In a study done by Washington state, 29% of patients developed arthritis following Salmonella gastroenteritis infection. The study found that children were less susceptible to reactive arthritis than adults. In another study, the frequency of developing the disorder was reported to be 1-4% for Campylobacter and Shigella infections. And yet another study reported the chances of development between 1.5% – 7% for Shigella and 0.6% – 24% for Campylobacter.
Reactive Arthritis Fast Facts
What is Reactive Arthritis?
Reactive Arthritis is a chronic and systemic rheumatic disease. It is referred to as ‘reactive’ because it happens when the immune system seems to be ‘reacting’ to the presence of (or recovery from) a bacterial infection in another body system. Some infected people’s immune systems react in a peculiar manner to the infections and causes a spontaneous inflammation of the joints and the eyes.
It was initially named ‘Reiter’s Syndrome’ after Hans Reiter, a soldier suffered from the classic triad of urethritis, conjunctivitis, and arthritis.
What are Some of the Risk factors for Reactive Arthritis?
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Reactive Arthritis?
Reactive Arthritis has a classic triad of symptoms that only affect one third of the patients diagnosed with the condition. These symptoms include:
Of these, the most common symptoms of Reactive Arthritis include:
Around 20% of the people who develop Reactive Arthritis will have chronic or long-term symptoms. Studies have also shown that around 15-50% of the victims will develop the symptoms again once the initial flare has gone down.
How is Reactive Arthritis Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of Reactive Arthritis depends on history and physical examinationcompleted by the healthcare provider. A doctor will check an affected person’s joints (knees and ankles) for the signs and symptoms of inflammation, such as swelling, tenderness, etc. During this time, an affected person should notify their doctor about the pain or any other symptoms that they might be experiencing.
The following laboratory studies may also be ordered:
Imaging Modalities that can also be considered to assist in diagnosis include:
Blood tests can help to reveal evidence of past and current infection, signs of inflammation, antibodies that might be present due to other types of arthritis, and show the presence of the genetic marker that would be linked to Reactive Arthritis.
Joint fluid tests will help in revealing whether or not the body’s white blood cell count has increased – an increase indicates inflammation or an infection, bacteria in joint fluid indicates septic arthritis, uric acid crystals in joint fluid can indicate gout.
How is Reactive Arthritis Treated?
No specific treatmentexists for Reactive Arthritis, and treatment basically aims at relieving the symptoms. The medication prescribed for an affected person is based on the severity of their inflammation and symptoms. Around two-thirds of the patients have a self-limited course, meaning that they get better on their own. Around 30% of the individuals can develop chronic symptoms due to Reactive Arthritis. This could pose a therapeutic challenge in the treatment.
The treatment first focuses on the underlying infection that is the root cause of the development of Reactive Arthritis. Then, eventually, the drugs and subsequent therapy focus on pain relief and management. Some common drugs that are prescribed include:
How Can Someone Prevent Developing Reactive Arthritis?
Prevention of Reactive Arthritis relates to prevention of infection. Foodborne illnesses can contribute to the development of Reactive Arthritis, so it is always to practice good food safety behaviors. Regular handwashing and good hygiene are also recommended to help reduce the likelihood of infections.