What is reactive arthritis?

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Reactive arthritis is form of arthritis triggered by an infection in the body. Generally, a bacterial infection in the intestines or sexually transmitted infection is the cause. The condition does not often develop until after the infection has been treated successfully.

Individuals with reactive arthritis typically have symptoms affecting the large joints in the lower extremities. Men are likely to develop the condition than women, usually around the age of 30 years. In addition, men are prone to suffer from intense joint pain.


It is important to note that there are 3 main groups of symptoms linked with reactive arthritis.


The condition usually affects the joints in the ankles, knees and sacroiliac joints in the pelvis.

The condition usually affects the joints in the ankles, knees and sacroiliac joints in the pelvis.

  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Joint tightness
  • Swelling of the back, fingers, heels or buttocks


Urethritis can trigger urinary symptoms such as:

  • Pain or burning sensation during urination
  • Increased urge to urinate

Men might develop prostatitis as part of reactive arthritis which is characterized as inflammation of the prostate gland. Among women, cervicitis or inflammation of the cervix might develop.

Eyes and skin

Eye inflammation is one of the main indications of reactive arthritis that can include itchiness, pain and drainage.

Skin rashes and mouth sores are uncommon. Nevertheless, they might be present with other symptoms of reactive arthritis.


The treatment for reactive arthritis is based on the exact cause. Antibiotics might be given by the doctor to manage an underlying infection. Additional medications are given for mouth ulcers, conjunctivitis or skin rashes if needed.


The objective of treatment once the underlying condition is properly controlled involves pain management. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen are given to reduce the pain and inflammation.

Corticosteroids are also given which work by fighting the white blood cells and other bodily chemicals that trigger inflammation. These are taken orally or injected directly into the affected joint. If these are not effective, immunosuppressive agents might be needed.


Exercises must be included in the daily routine to promote joint health. Exercise helps keep the joints supple and preserves the range of motion.

A doctor must be consulted if pain and stiffness limits the range of motion. Physical therapy might be required to restore the normal range of motion without any pain.

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