Reactive arthritis: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Reactive arthritis (Reiter's Syndrome)
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 M02.
ICD-9 099.3
DiseasesDB 29524
eMedicine med/1998
MeSH C01.539.100.500

Reactive arthritis (ReA) is an autoimmune condition that develops in response to an infection in another part of the body. Coming into contact with bacteria and developing an infection can trigger reactive arthritis.[1] It has symptoms similar to various other conditions collectively known as "arthritis," such as rheumatism. It is caused by another infection and is thus "reactive", i.e., dependent on the other condition. The "trigger" infection has often been cured or is in remission in chronic cases, thus making determination of the initial cause difficult.

The symptoms of reactive arthritis very often include a combination of three seemingly unlinked symptoms—an inflammatory arthritis of large joints, inflammation of the eyes (conjunctivitis and uveitis), and urethritis. A useful mnemonic is "the patient can't see, can't pee, can't bend the knee" or "can't see, can't pee, can't climb a tree." Most commonly known as Reiter’s syndrome after German physician Hans Conrad Julius Reiter, it is also known as arthritis urethritica, venereal arthritis and polyarteritis enterica. It is a type of seronegative spondyloarthropathy.

Reactive arthritis is an RF-seronegative, HLA-B27-linked spondyloarthropathy [2] (autoimmune damage to the cartilages of joints) often precipitated by genitourinary or gastrointestinal infections, some of which can be transmitted through sexual activities.

It most commonly strikes individuals aged 20–40, is more common in men than in women, and is more common in white men than in black men. This is owing to white individuals' being more likely to have tissue type HLA-B27 than black individuals. People with HIV have an increased risk of developing reactive arthritis as well.


Signs and symptoms

Symptoms generally appear within 1–3 weeks but can range from 4 to 35 days from the onset of the inciting episode of the disease.

The classical presentation is that the first symptom experienced is a urinary symptom such as burning pain on urination (dysuria) or an increased frequency of urination. Other urogenital problems may arise such as prostatitis in men and cervicitis, salpingitis and/or vulvovaginitis in women.

Diagnosis revealed that the rash on the bottom of this individual’s feet, known as keratoderma blennorrhagica, was due to Reiter's syndrome'-CDC/ Dr. M. F. Rein.

The arthritis that follows usually affects the large joints such as the knees causing pain and swelling with relative sparing of small joints such as the wrist and hand.

Eye involvement occurs in about 50% of men with urogenital reactive arthritis and about 75% of men with enteric reactive arthritis. Conjunctivitis and uveitis can include redness of the eyes, eye pain and irritation, or blurred vision. Eye involvement typically occurs early in the course of reactive arthritis, and symptoms may come and go.

Roughly 20 to 40 percent of men with reactive arthritis develop penile lesions called balanitis circinata (circinate balanitis) on the end of the penis. A small percentage of men and women develop small hard nodules called keratoderma blennorrhagica on the soles of the feet and, less often, on the palms of the hands or elsewhere. In addition, some people with reactive arthritis develop mouth ulcers that come and go. In some cases, these ulcers are painless and go unnoticed. Some people suffer serious gastrointestinal problems similar to those of Crohn's disease.

About 10 percent of people with reactive arthritis, especially those with prolonged disease, will develop cardiac manifestations, including aortic regurgitation and pericarditis.


It is set off by a preceding infection, the most common of which would be a genital infection with Chlamydia trachomatis in the US. Other bacteria known to cause reactive arthritis which are more common worldwide are Ureaplasma urealyticum, Salmonella spp., Shigella spp., Yersinia spp., and Campylobacter spp.[3] A bout of food poisoning or a gastrointestinal infection may also precede the disease (those last four genera of bacteria mentioned are enteric bacteria). There is some circumstantial evidence for other organisms causing the disease, but the details are unclear.[4] Reactive arthritis usually manifests about 1–3 weeks after a known infection. The mechanism of interaction between the infecting organism and the host is unknown. Synovial fluid cultures are negative, suggesting that ReA is caused either by an over-stimulated autoimmune response or by bacterial antigens which have somehow become deposited in the joints.


There are countless clinical symptoms, but the clinical picture is dominated by polyarthritis. There is pain, swelling, redness, and heat in the joints. MRI is effective for diagnosis.

The urethra, cervix and throat may be swabbed in an attempt to culture the causative organisms. Cultures may be carried out on urine and stool samples. Synovial fluid from an affected knee may be aspirated to look at the fluid under the microscope and for culture.

Also, a blood test for the genetic marker HLA-B27 may be given to determine if the patient has the gene. About 75 percent of all patients with reactive arthritis have the gene.

Diagnostic Criteria

Although there are no definitive criteria to diagnose the existence of reactive arthritis, the American College of Rheumatology has published sensitivity and specificity guidelines.[5]

Percent Sensitivity and Specificity of Various Criteria for Typical Reiter's Syndrome [Reactive Arthritis]
Method of diagnosis Sensitivity Specificity
1. Episode of arthritis of more than 1 month with urethritis and/or cervicitis 84.3% 98.2%
2. Episode of arthritis of more than 1 month and either urethritis or cervicitis, or bilateral conjunctivitis 85.5% 96.4%
3. Episode of arthritis, conjunctivitis, and urethritis 50.6% 98.8%
4. Episode of arthritis of more than 1 month, conjunctivitis, and urethritis 48.2% 98.8%


The main goal of treatment is to identify and eradicate the underlying infectious source with the appropriate antibiotics if still present. Otherwise, treatment is symptomatic for each problem. Analgesics, steroids and immunosuppressants may be needed for patients with severe reactive symptoms that do not respond to any other treatment.


Reactive arthritis may be self-limiting, frequently recurring, chronic or progressive. Most patients have severe symptoms lasting a few weeks to six months. Fifteen to 50 percent of cases have recurrent bouts of arthritis. Chronic arthritis or sacroiliitis occurs in 15-30 percent of cases. Repeated attacks over many years are common, and patients sometimes end up with chronic and disabling arthritis, heart disease, amyloid deposits, immunoglobulin A nephropathy, cardiac conduction abnormalities, or aortitis with aortic regurgitation.[6] However, most people with reactive arthritis can expect to live normal life spans and maintain a near-normal lifestyle with modest adaptations to protect the involved organs.


Because women may be underdiagnosed, the exact incidence of reactive arthritis is difficult to know. A few studies have been completed, though. In Norway between 1988 and 1990, incidence was 4.6 cases per 100,000 for Chlamydia-induced reactive arthritis and 5 cases per 100,000 for that induced by enteric bacteria.[7] In 1978 in Finland, the annual incidence was found to be 43.6 per 100,000.[8]


Reactive arthritis was first described by Hans Conrad Julius Reiter, a German military physician who in 1916 described the disease in a World War I soldier who had recovered from a bout of diarrhea. There is movement that the term Reiter's syndrome should be phased out, partly owing to a move in the field of medicine to give descriptive names, rather than personal names, to conditions, and partly owing to Dr. Reiter's experiments in Nazi concentration camps.[9] However, the term remains one of the more recognized references to the disease.

Scottish association football player Ian Murray has suffered from reactive arthritis.[10]


  1. ^ Mayoclinic - reactive-arthritis
  2. ^ Ruddy, Shaun (2001). Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, 6th Ed. W. B. Saunders. pp. 1055–1064. ISBN 0721690335. 
  3. ^ Hill Gaston JS, Lillicrap MS (2003). "Arthritis associated with enteric infection". Best practice & research. Clinical rheumatology 17 (2): 219–39. doi:10.1016/S1521-6942(02)00104-3. PMID 12787523. 
  4. ^ Paget, Stephen (2000). Manual of Rheumatology and Outpatient Orthopedic Disorders: Diagnosis and Therapy, 4th Ed.. Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins. pp. chapter 36. ISBN 0781715768. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Kvien T, Glennas A, Melby K, et al: Reactive arthritis: Incidence, triggering agents and clinical presentation. J Rheumatol 21:115, 1994.
  8. ^ Isomaki H, Raunio J, von Essen R, et al: Incidence of rheumatic diseases in Finland. Scand J Rheumatol 7:188, 1979.
  9. ^ "Reactive Arthritis: eMedicine Emergency Medicine". Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  10. ^ Murray targets Christmas as date for Rangers return, The Independent, 29 November 2006.

Hans Reiter was a German physician 'convicted of war crimes' for his medical experiments at the concentration camp at Buchenwald. He wrote a book on "racial hygiene" called Deutsches Gold, Gesundes Leben - Frohes Schaffen.

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address