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What are the symptoms of reactive arthritis?

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Pain and swelling, usually in the joints of the legs (knees, ankles or toes), are often the first signs of reactive arthritis. Swelling may happen suddenly or develop over a few days after the affected joint becomes stiff.

Other joints including the fingers, wrists, elbows and the joints at the base of your spine (sacroiliac joints) can also become inflamed.

Reactive arthritis can also cause inflammation of the tendons around the joints, such as the Achilles tendon at the back of the ankle.

If both the tendons and joints of one finger or toe are affected at the same time, it can cause that finger or toe to become swollen like a sausage (dactylitis). 

Joint pain and swelling are often the only symptoms of reactive arthritis. But other possible symptoms include:

  • inflamed, red eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • scaly rashes over your hands or feet (known as keratoderma blenorrhagica)
  • diarrhoea, which may start some time before the arthritis
  • mouth ulcers
  • inflammation of the genital tract which produces a discharge from your vagina or penis
  • a sore rash over the end of the penis
  • weight loss and fever.
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