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What is reactive arthritis? — Reactive arthritis is a kind of arthritis that happens after certain infections. It causes pain and swelling in joints.
Reactive arthritis usually affects people who have or just had:
●Food poisoning or another kind of infection of the intestines
●An infection that you catch through sex
In the past, reactive arthritis was sometimes called "Reiter syndrome."
What are the symptoms of reactive arthritis? — The main symptoms of reactive arthritis are pain and swelling in the joints. These usually happen 1 to 4 weeks after an infection. In most cases, the symptoms affect only a few joints, usually in the knees, ankles, or feet.
Other symptoms might include:
●Pain in the tendons in the feet and ankles (tendons are tough bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones)
●Irritation of the eye called "conjunctivitis" (also known as pink eye)
●Pain when urinating
Is there a test for reactive arthritis? — No. But if your doctor or nurse can figure out what type of germ caused your infection, they should be able to tell if you have reactive arthritis. Your doctor or nurse can test your stool (bowel movements) or urine to look for certain kinds of germs.
If your doctor or nurse can't tell what germs caused your infection, they will study your symptoms to decide how likely it is that you have reactive arthritis.
How is reactive arthritis treated? — The symptoms of reactive arthritis are treated with medicines, including:
●NSAIDs – This is a large group of medicines that includes ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (sample brand name: Aleve). Your doctor or nurse might prescribe a dose higher than you would normally take to relieve pain.
●Other medicines – If NSAIDs do not help your symptoms, your doctor or nurse might give you a shot of steroids. Steroids help reduce inflammation. Your doctor might also give you more steroids to take at home.
There are also other medicines that might help if your symptoms do not get better with NSAIDs or steroids.
●Eye drops – Special drops can help relieve redness and irritation in your eyes. But if you have eye pain or trouble seeing, visit an eye doctor to make sure that you don't have a more serious problem.
Antibiotics do not usually help with the joint symptoms of reactive arthritis. Even so, your doctor or nurse might prescribe them if you still have an infection.
When will I feel better? — Most people with reactive arthritis get better quickly. Some people continue to notice symptoms, either constantly or just once in a while.
If your back gets very stiff and sore, see your doctor or nurse. This might mean that your reactive arthritis has turned into a more serious problem.
Patient education: Ankylosing spondylitis (The Basics)
Patient education: Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (The Basics)
Patient education: Chlamydia and gonorrhea (The Basics)
Patient education: Food poisoning (The Basics)
Patient education: Conjunctivitis (pink eye) (The Basics)
Patient education: Reactive arthritis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Axial spondyloarthritis, including ankylosing spondylitis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Chlamydia (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Foodborne illness (food poisoning) (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Conjunctivitis (pink eye) (Beyond the Basics)
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