Reactive Arthritis - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Reactive arthritis is joint pain and swelling that occurs due to an infection in the body, most likely of the intestines, genitals, or urinary tract. Generally, it targets your joints of the ankles and feet. However, inflammation can occur in your eyes, urethra, and skin. It is not a common disease. For some people, the symptoms may come and go on their own within 12 months. 



Symptoms 


The symptoms of reactive arthritis mostly occur after one to four weeks of exposure to the infectious agent. It may cause;


Pain and stiffness


Reactive arthritis affects joints of the ankles and knees, causing pain and swelling. It may also cause pain in your heels, buttocks, and lower back. 


Eye inflammation 


Reactive arthritis may cause eye inflammation - a condition known as conjunctivitis. 


Urinary problems 


Reactive arthritis may increase urinary frequency and discomfort during urination. It can also cause inflammation of the prostate gland or cervix. 


Enthesitis 


It is a condition in which inflammation of soft tissue occurs where it enters the bone. It may include the ligaments, muscles, and tendons. 



Swollen toes and ankles


Reactive arthritis may cause swelling of your joints as much as they resemble sausages. 


Skin problems 


It can affect your skin in various ways, causing rashes on your soles and palms, along with mouth sores. 


Lower back pain


Reactive arthritis may cause lower back pain that gets worsens at night or in the morning. 


Causes 


Reactive arthritis occurs due to any other infection in your body. It can occur due to any food-borne or sexually transmitted organism. You may or may not have any other symptoms of infection. It occurs due to the reaction of your body to an infection that mostly occurs in the intestines, urinary tract, or genitals. Common organisms that cause it are;


  • Chlamydia

  • Campylobacter

  • Clostridium difficile

  • Salmonella

  • Shigella

  • Yersinia


Reactive arthritis is not contagious. However, it can spread through contaminated food or sexual contact. A very few people develop reactive arthritis after getting infected. 


Risk factors


Age 


Usually, reactive arthritis occurs in people aged between 20 to 40. 


Sex


Both men and women are at equal risk of developing reactive arthritis in response to food-borne infections. But men are more at risk of developing it in response to the sexually transmitted organism. 


Hereditary 


A certain genetic marker is linked to causing reactive arthritis. However, it can also occur in those who do not have that genetic marker. 


Prevention 


To keep yourself protected against reactive arthritis, you must ensure that what you eat is not contaminated. Make sure the food is cooked in hygienic conditions and stored too. Moreover, some sexually transmitted diseases can also cause reactive arthritis, which can be lowered by using condoms. 



Treatment 


To treat reactive arthritis, the healthcare provider may prescribe;


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like indomethacin or ibuprofen to relieve pain

Corticosteroids like prednisolone to reduce inflammation

Topical steroids to reduce inflammation and rashes

Rheumatoid arthritis drugs like sulfasalazine, methotrexate, and etanercept to relieve pain and stiffness of joints.


Conclusion 


Reactive arthritis is joint pain and swelling that occurs due to an infection in the body, most likely of the intestines, genitals, or urinary tract. Mostly, it targets your joints of the ankles and feet. However, inflammation can occur in your eyes, urethra, and skin. 


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