Reactive arthritis is a rare form of arthritis characterized by swelling and pain of the joints following an infection in another part of the body. Usually infections in the intestines or urogenital tract triggers reactive arthritis. In addition to arthritis, people suffering from reactive arthritis may also experience inflammation of the eyes, urethra and skin, a condition known as Reiter’s syndrome.
In most cases, reactive arthritis heals naturally within a year. During this period, you will experience arthritis flare-ups, followed by periods of remissions. Genetics appears to play an important role in reactive arthritis. Overwhelming majority of people with a history of reactive arthritis possess a gene called human leukocyte antigen (HLA) B27. The signs and symptoms of arthritis develop one to three weeks after exposure to the bacteria. Although people of both genders can develop reactive arthritis, men between the age of 20 and 40 are more susceptible to reactive arthritis.
Causes of Reactive Arthritis
Chlamydia infection is the most common cause of reactive arthritis. Although reactive arthritis is not a contagious ailment, the Chlamydia bacterium is transported into the body during sexual intercourse with a person suffering from Chlamydia infection. Although reactive arthritis due to Chlamydia infection occurs in both men and women, men have a higher risk of experiencing arthritis flare-ups.
Salmonella infection is a food borne bacterial disease that may cause reactive arthritis in both men and women. It occurs by consuming food or water contaminated with the salmonella bacteria. In case of salmonella infections where diarrhea lasts for a longer period than normal, there is a higher risk of developing reactive arthritis. Along with painful swollen joints, people suffering from reactive arthritis owing to salmonella infection may experience painful urination and conjunctivitis.
Shigella infection is another food-borne disease associated with reactive arthritis. Ingesting water or food contaminated with the shigella bacteria causes the illness.
Diarrhea and abdominal discomfort are common symptoms of the bacterial infection that infects the intestine. Reactive arthritis may occur several days after the first symptom of shigella infection appears. The arthritis usually affects the knees, feet, ankles and hips.
Reactive arthritis may also develop in response to Yersinia infection. This food borne illness occurs primarily by eating undercooked or raw pork. People who consume raw chitterlings are especially vulnerable to Yersinia infection. Contaminated water and unpasteurized milk are other sources of the infection.
There is a small risk of contracting the infection through physical contact with an infected animal. In a small number of cases, Yersinia infection occurs by receiving contaminated blood. Reactive arthritis may develop a month after exposure to the bacteria. It usually resolves within six months.
Campylobacter infection usually occurs by consuming raw or undercooked chicken or any other poultry meat. The stool of an animal infected with Campylobacter is a common source of Campylobacter infection. The infection may also occur by drinking untreated water or unpasteurized milk. People with weakened immune system are most vulnerable to Campylobacter infection. In some people, reactive arthritis develops several days after the first episode of diarrhea.