We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our site. Cookies are files stored in your browser and are used by most websites to help personalise your web experience.

By continuing to use our website without changing the settings, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more
You are here:
> > > > > How is reactive arthritis diagnosed?

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 therefore probably ask about your recent health and sexual activity if reactive arthritis is suspected.

Doctors usually diagnose reactive arthritis on the basis of one or more of the following signs:

  • you suddenly develop symptoms just after an infection – but the infection may have been so mild that you didn’t notice it, so sometimes doctors diagnose reactive arthritis even when there’s no definite history of infection
  • all tests for other forms of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) are negative
  • the arthritis is accompanied by symptoms very typical of reactive arthritis, such as rash over the palms or soles or red painful eyes.

What tests are there?

There’s no specific test for reactive arthritis, but the following may be used to confirm a diagnosis or rule out other causes of the symptoms:

  • a stool sample, or swabs taken from your throat, penis or vagina, which can be tested for signs of inflammation or infection
  • blood tests to check for levels of inflammation and sometimes to test for the HLA-B27 gene.

Blood tests can also be used to test for antibodies associated with other forms of arthritis. These antibodies include rheumatoid factor and anti-nuclear antibody.

If your eyes are sore and red you may be examined by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) in order to check that it isn’t a serious inflammation of the eye, known as iritis. This is different from conjunctivitis (which is the most common cause of a painful red eye). Iritis is inflammation of the coloured part of the eye (the iris), whereas conjunctivitis is inflammation of the white of the eye.


0800 5200 520

Our new helpline: Call us for free information, help and advice on your type of arthritis. Open Mon–Fri 9am–8pm.

All calls are recorded for training and quality purposes

Virtual Assistant

Our new Arthritis Virtual Assistant uses artificial intelligence to answer your arthritis related questions 24/7.

Ask a question
For more information, go to
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.