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What treatments are there for reactive arthritis?

Medical treatments for reactive arthritis fall into three groups:

1. Treating the infection

This usually involves:

  • antibiotics (usually taken by mouth) if you're found to have a bowel or genital tract infection
  • eye drops or ointment to treat conjunctivitis
  • steroid eye drops to treat iritis.

2. Treating the joint pain and swelling

Joint inflammation is treated according to severity. It usually involves:

  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)in mild to moderate cases
  • ice packs and heat pads to relieve joint pain and swelling (wrapped in a towel to protect your skin)
  • splints to rest your wrist joints or heel and shoe pads for painful feet.

3. Treating severe or ongoing arthritis

If you have more severe joint symptoms you may need:

  • to have some fluid removed from the affected joint through a needle (aspiration) – steroid injection is often given into the joint at the same time
  • steroid injection close to an inflamed tendon, or into a muscle (so that it spreads through the body)
  • a short course of low-dose steroid tablets.

If these treatments don't control the symptoms quickly enough you may be given disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as sulfasalazine.

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