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Reactive arthritis

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What is reactive arthritis?

Reactive arthritis is a relatively short-lived condition causing painful joint swelling. It develops shortly after a bowel, genital tract or, less frequently, throat infection. Read more >

What are the symptoms of reactive arthritis?

Common symptoms of reactive arthritis include:
  • painful and swollen joints, usually in your ankles or knees
  • swollen and tender tendons surrounding your joints
  • swollen fingers or toes that look like sausages – this is sometimes called a sausage digit (dactylitis)

Less common symptoms include:

  • inflamed, red eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • scaly skin rashes over your hands and feet
  • diarrhoea, which may start some time before the arthritis
  • mouth ulcers
  • inflammation of the genital tract, causing discharge from your penis or vagina
  • in men, a sore rash over the end of your penis
Read more >

Who gets reactive arthritis?

Reactive arthritis can affect people of all ages, including children. You may be more likely to develop it if you have a particular gene, HLA-B27. Read more >

What causes reactive arthritis?

Unlike septic arthritis, which is caused by an active infection within your joint, reactive arthritis is a reaction to an infection elsewhere in your body, for example:
  • in your gut, such as food poisoning or dysentery, usually involving diarrhoea
  • in your genital tract, which is sometimes caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  •  in your throat, which is usually caused by streptococcus
  • an ordinary viral or bacterial infection
Read more >

What is the outlook for reactive arthritis?

Reactive arthritis will usually disappear completely within 6 months. In 10–20% of people the symptoms last longer, but only a small number of people go on to develop a persistent arthritis that requires longer term treatment. Read more >

How is reactive arthritis diagnosed?

Reactive arthritis can usually be told apart from other arthritic conditions because of the link to an earlier infection. Your doctor will probably ask about your recent health and sexual activity if they think you have reactive arthritis. Read more >

What treatments are there for reactive arthritis?

Treatment for reactive arthritis may take three separate stages: This isn’t a complete list, and you should always discuss any possible treatment with your doctor. Read more >

Self-help and daily living for reactive arthritis

Try the following self-help tips for reactive arthritis: Read more >

Is reactive arthritis the same as viral-associated arthritis?

No, viral-associated or post-viral arthritis is different to reactive arthritis. In this condition joint pains develop at the same time that a person is suffering from a virus infection or following vaccination against a virus. Viral-associated arthritis usually clears up within a few weeks, whereas reactive arthritis can last for several months. Read more >

Research and new developments for reactive arthritis

Research has given us a better understanding of how infections can trigger reactive arthritis by over-stimulating the immune system.

Read more >

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