Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis is joint pain and swelling triggered by an infection in another part of your body — most often your intestines, genitals or urinary tract.

Your knees and the joints of your ankles and feet are the usual targets of reactive arthritis. Inflammation also may affect your eyes, skin and urethra when you have reactive arthritis.

Although reactive arthritis is sometimes called Reiter's syndrome, Reiter's is actually a specific type of reactive arthritis. In Reiter's, inflammation typically affects the eyes and urethra, as well as your joints.

Reactive arthritis isn't common. For most people, signs and symptoms of reactive arthritis come and go, eventually disappearing within 12 months.

Symptoms Risk factors Causes Prevention

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. The joint pain associated with reactive arthritis most commonly occurs in your knees, ankles and feet. You also might experience pain in your heels, low back or buttocks.
  • Eye inflammation. Many people who have reactive arthritis also develop eye inflammation (conjunctivitis).
  • Urinary problems. Increased frequency and discomfort during urination may occur, as can inflammation of the prostate gland or cervix.
  • Swollen toes or fingers. In some cases, your toes or fingers might become so swollen that they resemble sausages.

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