Reactive arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease, which happens because of an underlying infection in the intestine or urinary tract. Most patients experience pain and inflammation in the joints due to the condition. It is more common in people with gastrointestinal infections caused by Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, and other microbes. People with genitourinary infections caused by Chlamydia Trachomatis are also prone to develop reactive arthritis.

Reactive arthritis is a rheumatic condition, which can affect many other organs than the joints. This includes inflammation of the tissues in the eyes, skin, mouth, heart, lungs, and kidneys. This can eventually lead to severe complications, which is why it is important to diagnose and treat reactive arthritis in its early stages. Find the nearest low-income health clinic in your area for more information about reactive arthritis.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Reactive Arthritis

If you are experiencing pain and stiffness in the joints of your feet and ankles or knees after having a stomach or urinary problem, then it could be a sign of reactive arthritis. Your doctor will examine your joints or knees to check any symptoms of inflammation, such as tenderness, warmth, and swelling. He/she will also test the range-of-motion in the areas where you are experiencing pain and stiffness. The physician may also check your eyes for any signs of inflammation and examine your skin for any kind of rashes or other symptoms related to reactive arthritis.

Depending upon the initial findings, your doctor may suggest a blood test to check the signs of the current or past infection. The blood test will also help the physician to assess the signs of inflammation and see if there are any antibodies in your body that are associated with other types of arthritis. It will also help to identify any genetic markers in your body that are linked to reactive arthritis.

The doctor may also recommend joint fluid tests to check the white blood cell count in your body. The test will also help your physician to identify any underlying infection and check the presence of bacteria in your joint fluid, which could cause severe joint damage. It also helps to find if there are any uric acid crystals in your joint fluid. Your doctor may also suggest X-rays of your low back, pelvic area, and joints to confirm the diagnosis of reactive arthritis and rule out other forms of arthritis.

After proper diagnosis, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan to manage your symptoms as well as to treat any underlying infection. If the test reports indicated a bacterial infection, then he/she may prescribe an antibiotic to kill the bacteria.

Apart from that, commonly prescribed medications for treating reactive arthritis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and other rheumatoid arthritis drugs.  These are meant to help with your pain and inflammation as well as assist you to return to your normal activity level as quickly as possible. You may also be recommended physical therapy to reduce stiffness and improve the range-of-motion in the affected areas.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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