Reactive arthritis is, as you might expect from the name, a type of arthritis that occurs as a reaction to inflammation elsewhere in the body. But what may come as a surprise is that the inflammation often is the result of the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia. It also can be triggered by bad bacteria in the gut, such as salmonella and shigella.

How did I get reactive arthritis?

Reactive arthritis tends to be a young person's disease; the typical patient is male and between 20 and 40. In fact, men are nine times likelier than women to develop reactive arthritis as a result of an infection acquired sexually. Men and women have an equal risk of developing the disease as a result of a food-related infection.

How do I know I have reactive arthritis?

Like many other types of arthritis, reactive arthritis attacks the joints and causes swelling and pain. The afflicted areas, usually the knees, feet, and ankles, may feel hot. Your tendons may be inflamed also. But the real tip-off that it's reactive arthritis is the inflammation you experience in your urogenital tract and your eyes. People of either gender may experience a burning sensation with urination. About half of all people with reactive arthritis will develop conjunctivitis, which is an infection in the mucus membrane that covers the eyeball and eyelid. The inner eye may be inflamed, too, and you may have lesions on your skin.

Is reactive arthritis treatable?

It is treatable, but not curable. However, the majority of people with reactive arthritis can live normal lives and keep the symptoms of the disease under control. About one fifth of those who contract the illness will have a mild, chronic version of it. A very small minority of patients end up with a chronic, severe form of the disease that is hard to treat. Between 15 percent and half of all people who get the disease will experience symptoms at some point after the initial symptoms disappear. These symptoms may come and go.

How do I treat reactive arthritis?

Reactive arthritis is treated in much the same way that other forms of arthritis are treated. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help control pain and stiffness, while corticosteroid injections may be used in cases of severe joint inflammation. Topical corticosteroid creams can help knock out skin lesions. Antibiotics may be prescribed to get rid of the bacteria that caused your infection in the first place.



National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases,