Reactive arthritis is joint pain and swelling triggered by an infection in another part of your body — most often your intestines, genitals or urinary tract.
It usually targets your knees and the joints of your ankles and feet. Inflammation also can affect your eyes, skin and urethra.
Previously, it was sometimes called Reiter’s syndrome, which was characterized by eye, urethra and joint inflammation.
Symptoms of Reactive arthritis
The signs and symptoms of reactive arthritis generally start one to four weeks after exposure to a triggering infection. They might include:
- Pain and stiffness. The joint pain associated with reactive arthritis most commonly occurs in your knees, ankles and feet. You also might have pain in your heels, low back or buttocks.
- Eye inflammation. Many people who have reactive arthritis also develop eye inflammation (conjunctivitis).
- Urinary problems. Increased frequency and discomfort during urination may occur, as can inflammation of the prostate gland or cervix.
- Inflammation of soft tissue where it enters bone (enthesitis). This might include muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- Swollen toes or fingers. In some cases, your toes or fingers might become so swollen that they resemble sausages.
- Skin problems. Reactive arthritis can affect your skin a variety of ways, including a rash on your soles and palms and mouth sores.
- Low back pain. The pain tends to be worse at night or in the morning.
Reactive arthritis develops in reaction to an infection in your body, often in your intestines, genitals or urinary tract. You might not be aware of the triggering infection if it causes mild symptoms or none at all.
Numerous bacteria can cause the disease. Some are transmitted sexually, and others are foodborne. The most common ones include:
- Clostridium difficile
When to see a doctor
If you develop joint pain within a month of having diarrhea or a genital infection, contact our doctor.
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