Reactive arthritis (formerly Reiter syndrome) is a chronic form of arthritis with the following three conditions: inflamed joints, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis), and inflammation of the genital, urinary, or gastrointestinal systems.
This form of joint inflammation is called "reactive arthritis" because it is felt to involve an immune system that is "reacting" to the presence of bacterial infections in the genital, urinary, or gastrointestinal systems. The aberrant reaction of the immune system leads to spontaneous inflammation in the joints and eyes.
Reactive arthritis usually occurs in patients in their 30s or 40s, but it can occur at any age.
The signs and symptoms of reactive arthritis generally start one to three weeks after exposure to a triggering infection. They may include: pain and stiffness, eye inflammation (conjunctivitis) and urinary problems.
Reactive arthritis develops in reaction to an infection in another part of your body, often in the intestines, genitals or urinary tract. The patient may not be aware of the triggering infection because it may cause only mild symptoms or none at all.
Numerous bacteria can cause reactive arthritis. The most common ones include: Chlamydia, Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia and Campylobacter
Factors that increase the risk of reactive arthritis are: your age, most frequently in people at the age of 20 to 40, your sex: men are more likely than women to develop reactive arthritis in response to sexually transmitted bacteria. Hereditary factors. A specific genetic marker has been linked to reactive arthritis. But many people who have this marker never develop reactive arthritis.
Reactive arthritis is considered a systemic rheumatic disease. This means it can affect other organs than the joints, causing inflammation in tissues such as the eyes, mouth, skin, kidneys, heart, and lungs.
Genetic factors play a role in whether you're likely to develop reactive arthritis. Though you can't change your genetic makeup, you can reduce your exposure to the bacteria that may lead to reactive arthritis.
Make sure your food is stored at proper temperatures and is cooked properly to avoid many foodborne bacteria that can cause reactive arthritis, including salmonella, shigella, yersinia and campylobacter. Some sexually transmitted infections can trigger reactive arthritis. Using condoms may lower your risk.