What Is Reactive Arthritis?


Reactive Arthritis

Reactive arthritis involves swelling and inflammation in the urethra, genital system, joints, gastro intestinal systems and the eyes. It is often seen infected after a genital infection or a bowel infection. The symptoms of Reactive arthritis often show similarities to psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and ankylosing spondylitis.


This is a chronic form of arthritis. Three major conditions are the peculiarities of this disease are inflamed joints, inflammation of the eyes or conjunctivitis and inflammation of the genital systems, gastrointestinal systems or urinary systems.


Reactive Arthritis Causes

The arthritis gained the name reactive arthritis as it is the result of the immune system of the body which has reacted to the bacterial infections in the urinary system, genital systems or gastro intestinal systems. In some people, the immune systems are so alert that they react readily when the body is exposed t bacteria. This reaction is the reason for the reactive arthritis. Inflammation in the joints and eyes is the end result.

Reiter’s Syndrome

Earlier, this disease was known as Reiter’s syndrome, after Dr Hans Reiter. Usually, Reactive arthritis occurs in people who are 30 or 40 years of age. But it has been seen that the disease affects people of any age. Reactive arthritis occurring after the infection in the genital areas often occurs in males. The type of reactive arthritis that develops after bowel infection or dysentery usually occurs in both females and males.

Reiter's Syndrome

This is a kind of systemic rheumatic disease. That is, it can affect the organs other than the joints. Eyes, skin, kidneys, mouth and lungs are affected by Reactive arthritis. It is a disease which affects men between 20 – 40 years of age. Sometimes, hereditary factors too are the reasons for Reactive arthritis.

But more often, Reactive arthritis is caused due to the exposure of the body to infections.It can be seen that Reactive arthritis develops two or three weeks after the bacterial infection. The symptoms of Reactive arthritis can be broadly divided into two- on that affects the joints and one that affects the non-joint areas.

Reactive Arthritis Affecting Joints

Inflammation in knees, wrists and ankles are the three main symptoms of Reactive arthritis affecting joints. The joints affected become asymmetric, that is only one side of the body is infected or affected. The inflammation will be followed by pain, stiffness, redness and warmth in the affected joints.

Reactive Arthritis Affecting Joints

Fingers become big. Inflammation of the spine and back of the neck can also cause pain in the affected person. The cartilages are also inflamed particularly in the areas around the breast bone. Costochondritis is the name for this state. The tendons are also affected and pain is the ultimate result.

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Reactive Arthritis Affecting the Non-Joint Areas

Non-Joint areas of the body like the skin, mouth lining, aorta, large bowel, urinary tract and the iris of the eyes get inflamed. If the eyes are affected, it becomes very painful for the person when looking at bright lights. This is referred to as photophobia.

Non-Joint Areas


Urethra in the urinary tract is affected in Reactive arthritis. Burning sensation in the end of the penis and burning sensation on urination are the symptoms of Reactive arthritis affecting urethra.

Fluid filled blisters are seen if the arthritis affects the hand or sole of the feet. The skin may imitate symptoms of psoriasis. Mouth can develop ulcers or open sores both on the hard as well as on the soft palate. Tongue will also be infected with ulcers. The patient does not notice this as these are more often painless.