Reactive arthritis which is also known as Reiter’s arthritis or Reiter’s syndrome is a systemic inflammatory rheumatic disease, which occurs as a result of a viral or bacterial infection in another part of the body. An autoimmune condition, reactive arthritis can cause inflammation of the eyes, the joints and the urethra.
Painful sores may also develop on the mucous membranes and on the skin. It was Hans Reiter a young German officer who described this form of arthritis for the very first time in 1916. Men, especially those below the age of 40 are most likely to contract reactive arthritis. The pathogen which triggers this type of arthritis normally enters the system through the uro-genital tract or via the intestinal tract.
Chlamydia trachomatis is the common bacterium which can cause the post venereal form of reactive arthritis. Bacteria like shigella, salmonella and yersinia which can cause infectious dysentery are known to trigger reactive arthritis.
The typical symptoms of reactive arthritis can be seen approximately four weeks after an individual is infected by the bacterium or virus. The musculoskeletal system, the urinary system and the eyes are the three regions of the body where the symptoms of reactive arthritis can be observed.
Signs & Symptoms of Reactive Arthritis
The Musculoskeletal System
The bones and muscles of the body are affected by this type of arthritis. Typical musculoskeletal symptoms of reactive arthritis are listed below.
Joint Pain and Swelling
One of the first signs and symptoms of reactive arthritis is joint pain and swelling. The pain and swelling is localized around the weight bearing bones of the body.
Typically a person suffering from reactive arthritis may complain of pain around the knees, the ankles and the feet. Some individuals may also complain of excruciating pain around their hips.
Lower Back Pain
Nearly fifty percent of all people with reactive arthritis report of pain around their lower back. The pain which originates in the lower back often radiates towards the buttocks. The lower back pain is generally localized around the bony lumbar spine or between the lower spinal discs.
Individuals suffering from reactive arthritis may develop bony growths around their heels which are referred to as heel spurs.
These growths around the heels can cause chronic foot pain. Besides heel pain, reactive arthritis patients may also complain of pain around the Achilles tendon and behind the ankles.
Swelling of Fingers and Toes
One of the classic symptoms of reactive arthritis is the ‘sausage digit’. Sausage digit or dactylitis is a term which denotes excessive swelling of a single finger or a single toe.
Inflammation of Cartilage
Cartilages which are located around the breastbone may also become inflamed as a result of this condition. Inflammation of the cartilages where the ribs meet the front part of the chest is called costochondritis.
Besides cartilages even the tendons can become highly inflamed and painful.
Reproductive and Urinary Tract System
Reactive arthritis can cause swelling and pain in the reproductive and urinary tract system. Some of the common symptoms of reactive arthritis observed in these specific regions of the body are listed below.
Problems Encountered While Urinating
A person suffering from reactive arthritis may encounter a number of problems while passing water. An individual suffering from this condition will typically complain of a burning sensation or a sharp pain while passing urine. The burning sensation is caused by the inflammation of the urethra – a tube which helps to drain urine by connecting the bladder with the genitals.
Polyuria is the medical term which denotes the unique condition wherein a person may pass unusually large amounts of urine or have the urgency to relieve him self or her self frequently.
Penile or Vaginal Discharge
Individuals suffering from reactive arthritis, which is caused by a venereal infection, may typically notice a sudden discharge of fluid from the vagina (women) or penis (men).
Prostatitis is the medical term which refers to the inflammation of the prostate gland. Prostate gland is a walnut sized gland which forms an important part of the male reproductive system.
Women who suffer from reactive arthritis may complain of pain around the cervix.
Blood Tinged Urine
In rare circumstances a person may observe tiny specks of blood while urinating.
Reactive arthritis patients may be prone to numerous eye problems. Listed below are some of the eye problems encountered by persons suffering from this form of arthritis.
The eyes of patients suffering from this condition may become red and swollen.
The inner portion of the eyes become highly inflamed and results in a condition called uveitis. Uveitis is an extremely common problem among reactive arthritis patients.
Other Symptoms of Reactive Arthritis
Mild fever, chronic fatigue, appearance of ulcers inside the mouth, sudden bouts of diarrhea and thickening of nails are some of the other signs and symptoms of reactive arthritis.