Reactive Arthritis - Personal Experience

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What is reactive arthritis?

Reactive arthritis is a chronic form of arthritis featuring the following three conditions: (1) inflamed joints, (2) inflammation of the eyes (conjunctivitis), and (3) inflammation of the genital, urinary, or gastrointestinal systems.

This form of joint inflammation is called "reactive arthritis" because it is felt to involve an immune system that is "reacting" to the presence of bacterial infections in the genital, urinary, or gastrointestinal systems. Accordingly, certain people's immune systems are genetically primed to react aberrantly when these areas are exposed to certain bacteria. The aberrant reaction of the immune system leads to spontaneous inflammation in the joints and eyes. This can be confounding to the patient and the doctor when the infection has long passed at the time of presentation with arthritis or eye inflammation.

Reactive arthritis has, in the past, been referred to as Reiter's syndrome (a term that has lost favor because of Dr. Hans Reiter's dubious past, one of enthusiastically embracing Nazi politics and medical abominations). In addition, Reiter's syndrome would refer to a specific type of reactive arthritis limiting inflammation to eye, urethra, and joints.

Reactive arthritis most frequently occurs in patients in their 30s or 40s, but it can occur at any age. The form of reactive arthritis that occurs after genital infection (venereal) occurs more frequently in males. The form that develops after bowel infection (dysentery) occurs in equal frequency in males and females.

Reactive arthritis is considered a systemic rheumatic disease. This means it can affect other organs than the joints, causing inflammation in tissues such as the eyes, mouth, skin, kidneys, heart, and lungs. Reactive arthritis shares many features with several other arthritic conditions, such as psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and arthritis associated with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Each of these arthritic conditions can cause similar disease and inflammation in the spine and other joints, eyes, skin, mouth, and various organs. In view of their similarities and tendency to inflame the spine, these conditions are collectively referred to as "spondyloarthropathies."

Picture of spondyloarthropathy - Reactive Arthritis
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See what others are saying

Comment from: Elizheva, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: February 11

I have reactive arthritis after diverticulitis with infection of E-coli and I had to have a drain in my side with two months of antibiotics daily. I began experiencing, after about three weeks or so, pain in my hips that radiated down to my knees and ankles, then my lower back. I have tried numerous drugs, right now patches for pain, anti-inflammatory diclofenac, and methotrexate injections. I have found no pain relief and it is hard to sleep or walk much with so much pain. I am 63 years old. This is terrible pain and I'm unable to manage much with the radiation of the pain up and down my spine and hips.

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Comment from: MeToRA, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: March 13

At age 64, and within a couple of days of a colonoscopy, I contracted a severe gastrointestinal infection. For the next six months I had frequent diarrhea episodes. I was treated with severe medicinal applications, and lost approximately 50lbs. Shortly thereafter I developed reactive arthritis that has moved from feet issues, knee issues, hand issues, and now after 5 years contending with these issues, I still don't have much relief with greatly reduced mobility. I have a little relief when in bed, but standing and walking causes severe pain.

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