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- Reactive arthritis facts
- What is reactive arthritis?
- What causes reactive arthritis?
- What are risk factors for developing reactive arthritis?
- What are reactive arthritis symptoms and signs?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose reactive arthritis?
- What is the treatment for reactive arthritis?
- What is the prognosis of reactive arthritis?
- Is it possible to prevent reactive arthritis?
- What does the future hold for reactive arthritis?
How do health-care professionals diagnose reactive arthritis?
There is no single lab test used to diagnose reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis is diagnosed based upon recognition of the combination of arthritis with inflammation of the eyes, and the genital, urinary, and/or gastrointestinal systems. The doctor obtains a medical history to note the time course of possible infection in the genital or urinary tracts, or the bowel. Stiffness and pain are monitored. Inflammatory types of joint problems typically cause more stiffness in the morning. Blood tests such as a sedimentation rate may be obtained to document the presence of inflammation in the body. The rheumatoid factor, which is typically present in rheumatoid arthritis, is usually negative in reactive arthritis. The HLA-B27 gene marker blood test can be helpful, especially in the diagnosis of patients with spine disease. Other tests may be ordered to eliminate other possible diseases with similar symptoms.
X-rays of the spine or other joints can reveal typical changes of inflammation in these areas but generally not until later in the disease. Occasionally, there are areas of unusual calcifications at the points where the tendons attach to the bones, indicating past inflammation in these areas. Those patients with eye inflammation may require ophthalmology evaluation to document the degree of inflammation in the iris. Stool cultures might be obtained to detect the presence of infections in the bowel. Similarly, urinalysis and culture of the urine may be necessary to detect bacterial infection in the urinary tract. The prostate gland, which can also be inflamed in a patient with reactive arthritis, may be examined for tenderness.
Sometimes the fluid of the inflamed joint needs to be examined. In this case, a doctor will use a needle to withdraw fluid from the joint in sterile fashion. The joint fluid will be examined for white blood cells, bacteria (to check for infection), and crystals (to eliminate gout as a diagnosis).