Reactive arthritis is a rare form of arthritis caused by bacterial infections. The infection usually affects your urinary tract, eyes, skin and joints. Reactive arthritis symptoms can include severe joint pain that affects your quality of life. It can take several months to recover from reactive arthritis.
Reactive arthritis is a rare form of arthritis caused by a bacterial infection that usually affects your urinary or gastrointestinal tract, causing painful inflammation in your lower back, joints and eyes.
Reactive arthritis symptoms can be mild or become more severe over time. Symptoms last between three and 12 months and can come and go during that time.
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Reactive arthritis is most often found in men ages 30 to 50, but women can get it too. Men are nine times more likely than women to get reactive arthritis through sexual contact. Women are more likely to get reactive arthritis from food poisoning.
Reactive arthritis affects people in different ways. You might have one or all of the following problems:
Reactive arthritis is relatively rare, affecting five out of every 100,000 people in the United States.
Researchers think reactive arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disorders happen when your body sets out to attack bacteria or virus and hits healthy tissue by mistake. Reactive arthritis typically follows infections caused by these bacteria:
Most people have these infections without developing reactive arthritis. Researchers aren’t sure why some people get reactive arthritis while others don’t. Some people carry a gene called HLA B27 (human leukocyte antigen) that increases their chance of developing reactive arthritis.
Reactive arthritis is your body’s reaction to a bacterial infection. Reactive arthritis symptoms develop about 10 days after your bacterial infection. You might have one or more of these symptoms:
Reactive arthritis isn’t contagious, but the bacterial infections that cause reactive arthritis are.
Your healthcare provider will
Your provider might use the following tests:
Reactive arthritis treatment relieves your symptoms and treats your underlying bacterial infection. Your treatment might change over time if you develop new symptoms or your current treatment isn’t relieving your symptoms.
Your provider will use several medications to relieve your symptoms and treat your infection. Some medications that might be used are:
Reactive arthritis symptoms usually go away within three to six months after you start treatment. But it can become a chronic illness for 20% of people who have the condition.
Reactive arthritis symptoms might come and go. You might not have symptoms for weeks or months at a time.
You can reduce your risk of reactive arthritis by:
Most people with reactive arthritis recover completely and resume their daily routine about three to six months after starting treatment.
You might have mild reactive arthritis symptoms for up to a year. Your provider can help you manage these long-term symptoms so you’re able to get back to your normal routine while you recover.
Studies show that 15% to 50% of people who have reactive arthritis develop symptoms again. These recurring symptoms might be signs of new bacterial infections. Talk to your healthcare provider about preventing new infections.
You can take care yourself by avoiding activities that might cause new bacterial infections:
Here are some positive steps you can take as you recover:
Reactive arthritis symptoms might not appear at the same time. Keep track of your symptoms and contact your provider if your existing symptoms get worse or you notice new symptoms.
Reactive arthritis and Adult-Onset Still’s disease (AOSD) have similar symptoms and causes. Unlike AOSD, researchers have pinpointed the bacteria that cause reactive arthritis.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Reactive arthritis is a painful condition caused by a bacterial infection. It can come and go over several months. Your healthcare provider will help you treat the infection and manage your symptoms. Keep track of your symptoms and contact your provider if they get worse or you have new ones. Talk to your provider about what to expect throughout your recovery and what you can do to recover more quickly.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/06/2021.
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