Reactive arthritis is inflammation in the joints that develops in reaction to an infection or virus elsewhere in the body. It is treatable and attacks are usually short-lived.
Causes of reactive arthritis
Common infections that can trigger reactive arthritis are:
- the flu virus
- food poisoning
- sexually transmitted diseases
It can occur at any age, although it is more frequently seen in younger people.
How will reactive arthritis affect me?
The severity of reactive arthritis varies widely – from joint swelling, mild fever and a few weeks of discomfort, through to more severe symptoms lasting 12 months or more. You may experience symptoms very quickly but more usually they develop over a few days or longer. Some of the following symptoms may be seen:
- pain and swelling in the knees, ankles or toes
- infections in genitals and urinary tract
- skin complaints
- eye infections
Treatments for reactive arthritis
Reactive arthritis is difficult to diagnose as there is no conclusive test. The first stage of treatment will tackle the infection or virus that might have started the condition, often with antibiotics.
The second stage is treatment for the joint pain and swelling. Your doctor may prescribe you:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for the inflammation
- injected steroids if the inflammation is severe
- disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) if your arthritis lasts more than a few months
What can you do?
It is important to exercise your muscles and to keep your joints moving. You may be referred to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist that will help you learn how to make the most efficient use of your joints.
Resting is also a key part of recovery.
The Arthritis Care Helpline is available to answer any specific questions you may have on all aspects of arthritis.
I’ve always wanted to deal with my arthritis on my own by looking after myself properly – and I find I’m progressing rapidly. But not everyone has that mind-set, and that’s why Arthritis Care is important.Rob, freestyle footballer, Birmingham