Arthritis refers to swollen joints. Reactive arthritis is the condition in which inflammation of genital parts or gastro intestinal systems take place. It often develops after a person had genital infection or problems in bowel movement. The symptoms of reactive arthritis are similar to that of psoriatic arthritis and ulcerative colitis. This condition can occur in any part of the joint but often affects the eyes, mouth and the urinary tract. In rare cases it can infect the heart. Treatment is given for reducing the intensity of stiffness in the joints.
Reactive arthritis is marked by three conditions namely :
- Inflammation of joints
- Swelling of eyes or conjunctivitis
- Inflammation of urinary and genitals and gastrointestine
This disease was also known as ‘Reiter’s syndrome’ in olden days. This type of chronic arthritis affects the people of age group 30-40 years largely but can occur in any age group.
The signs of reactive arthritis occur often after an infection. The initial symptoms can occur anywhere from 1-3 weeks of urinary or eye infection. There will be intense joint pain due to swelling of joints in the knees and ankles. Some people may develop joint inflammation on the lower back. Swelling of eyes is common in reactive arthritis. Many people will develop urinary problems and there will be compulsive urge for urinating frequently. The extremities are swollen and there will be difficulty in writing and walking.
Exact cause of arthritis is unknown. It is believed to be autoimmune disorder. People who are frequently infected have increased chance of getting reactive arthritis. Genetics play a role in causing this disease. The presence of HLA B27 genes is indicative of developing this disease in later ages. Bacterial infection can cause reactive arthritis. It can be caused by Chalmydia, shigella or salmonella bacterium.
Though this disease is not contagious still there is every chance for contacting it through unsafe sex. Chlamydia trachomatis is the bacterium causing venereal infections which is followed by reactive arthritis in many cases. An individual with infectious dysentery can develop this problem after few weeks of infection.
Risk Factors :
For reasons not known, men are more prone to develop reactive arthritis than women. People with HLA B27 genes inherited from parents have increased risk. A person having sex with multiple partners and having dysentery infection often have more chance for getting reactive arthritis.
The doctor may physically examine the body to check the signs of warmth and swelling. He may request for blood test and joint fluid test for confirming his diagnoses. A thin needle is inserted to the inflamed joint to draw sample of fluid for testing the WBC and infectious organisms.
No specific medications are available for treating reactive arthritis. But drugs are helpful to manage joint pain and further inflammation. Antibiotics are prescribed for controlling bacterial infection. Nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs like Indocin is given for getting quick relief from joint pain. For severe pain corticosteroid is injected directly into the joints which will considerably reduce swelling.
Stiffness of joint can be reduced by rheumatoid arthritis medications like sulfasalazine or methotrexate drugs. Regular physiotherapy can make mobility easier for people affected with joint pain. Practicing strengthening exercise will give flexibility to joint muscles and reduce stiffness. People with autoimmune disorder like AIDS and severe viral infections have to be more precautious than others. Eye inflammation or conjunctivitis is treated with suitable anti-inflammatory eye drops.
You cannot do anything to prevent reactive arthritis. But you can always reduce the chance of getting bacterial and viral infection. Practice safe sex and always wear condoms while having sex with strangers. Eat healthy foods and fully cooked stuff to prevent bacterial infection. Do not send your child to school or day care center if he has developed dysentery since infection can spread to other children.