Arthritis is a condition of the joints which refers to their inflammation and as a consequence of which they become swollen, red and painful. Arthritis is of several types. It is considered to be an autoimmune reaction and many of its causes are yet unknown. However, it is associated with the presence of certain genes in a person who may later on develop this inflammatory condition of the joints.
A type of arthritis known as reactive arthritis occurs as a result of infection in other parts of the body. This is known as cross-reactivity. This is a kind of auto immune disease which, like many other arthritis conditions, resolves itself with the passage of time or goes into chronic conditions.
The joints to be affected in the case of reactive arthritis are mostly the joints of the knees and the sacroiliac joints. Reactive arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system starts malfunctioning and therefore, infections develop throughout out the body. Not only the joints are affected in reactive arthritis, but, the immune cells also affect the eyes and the urethra causing conjunctivitis and urethritis respectively. The reaction is relatively known to be short lived. The inflammatory conditions generally disappear after a time period of 3 to 6 months and may also cause no problems in future.
This inflammatory disease is an uncommon condition which occurs when the normal functioning of the immune system is affected. Arthritis is a consequence of this disease.
Causes of Reactive Arthritis
Reactive arthritis is characterized by the symptoms such as swelling and pain in joints due to inflammation, swelling and pain in the tendons as well which surround the affected joint, sausage-like swelling in fingers and toes which is termed as dactylitis (sausage digit). The clinical representation of reactive arthritis begins with problems in urination such as burning sensation or pain while passing urine. Infection in reproductive structures can also occur such as prostatitis, cervicititis, vulvovaginitis, etc.
It is not yet determined that why does cross reactivity develop in the case of reactive arthritis. However, it is assumed that the inflammatory cells and the released chemicals may enter the blood stream and reach to other places. In this way, infection other than the diseased part can occur. Some of the causes of reactive arthritis are mentioned as under.
In the case of arthritis, genetic factors play an important role. It is found that those individuals who have a specific type of gene, HLA-B27, are likely to develop the risk of having arthritis. However, it seems as those individuals who have this certain kind of genetic predisposition, require specific environmental factors to trigger the onset of the disease.
As already mentioned in the article, the exact cause of this cross reactivity is yet to be known. However, certain theories are developed regarding the association of this disease with a preceding infection in the body. The most common cause of this cross reactivity is considered to be the venereal infections. The common types of infections that are likely to trigger the onset of reactive arthritis are mentioned as follows.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Infection of the genital tract usually that caused by the chlamydia and the gonorrhea infections, are generally associated with reactive arthritis.
Reactive arthritis may also occur in response to an infection in the gut. Any bacterial infection of the gut may become the reason behind the occurrence of reactive arthritis in a person.
The campylobacter and salmonella are famous for causing food poisoning and are known to be associated with reactive arthritis.
Sometimes it may be that, reactive arthritiswould develop following a viral infection. Such as genital herpes, chicken pox, hepatitis A, B and C; cytomegalovirus, the Epstein bar virus and HIV infections, may be followed by reactive arthritis.
The inflammation of joints in reactive arthritis can also be in response to an infection in the throat which may be caused by streptococci bacteria.
The causes of reactive arthritis may also include urethral infection which may be a consequence of the sexually transmitted infections. According to an estimate, about 1 in 100 cases of urethral infection may develop reactive arthritis.
Treating Reactive Arthritis
Treatment of reactive arthritis can be carried out using the NSAID drugs such as aspirin, indomethacin, piroxicam and some other such medicines. For reducing inflammation in the affected joints, certain corticosteroids such as prednisone may be useful. Corticosteroids are amongst the short-term treatment for reactive arthritis. To control the aggressive form of inflammation, immune suppressing drugs may be prescribed. But in case, if the cause of reactive arthritis is a HIV infection, then immune suppressing drugs are avoided.