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Reiter’s syndrome, also known as reactive arthritis or post-infectious arthritis, produces inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joints due to infection elsewhere in the body. Other parts of the body may also be affected by pain or lesions. This condition and other types of reactive arthritis are uncommon.
The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but it most commonly occurs because of an infection, such as chlamydia or salmonella. Reiter’s syndrome is not contagious, but the underlying cause is often an infection that can be spread through sexual contact or unsanitary food handling.
Risk factors that make you more susceptible include:
The primary symptoms of Reiter’s syndrome involve the urinary system, muscles, joints, skin, and eyes. Symptoms appear at different times. For example, urinary symptoms appear within days of the infection. Other symptoms, including arthritic pain, may not develop until weeks later.
Specific symptoms include:
To diagnose this condition, your doctor will do an examination based on your symptoms. Skin lesions will be assessed if you have them. Your doctor may also do X-rays, analyses of your urine, or other tests to help determine the location of your underlying infection. A DNA test can also check for the gene associated with Reiter’s syndrome.
Diagnosis may be difficult or delayed, however, because the symptoms often occur at different times.
To reduce your risk of developing this condition, prevent sexually transmitted diseases by using protection during sexual intercourse. Prevent gastrointestinal infections by washing your hands when handling food.
Treatment focuses on getting rid of the infection, pain, and other symptoms. There is no way to cure Reiter’s syndrome. Instead, treatment focuses on the underlying infection.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or pain relievers to help get rid of the infection and pain. In cases of severe joint pain, you may have corticosteroids (a medication that reduces inflammation) injected into the joint. For some people, physical therapy relieves joint pain and increases range of motion.
The prognosis for Reiter’s syndrome varies. Some people will recover completely in a few weeks or a few months. However, recurrence is likely. For some, the condition will become chronic.
In rare cases, Reiter’s syndrome can lead to disease in the heart valves, heart arrhythmias (changes in heart rhythm), or swelling in the eye.
Written by: Amber Erickson Gabbey
Published on Aug 20, 2012
Updated on Feb 15, 2013
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD
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