Reactive Arthritis is a form of arthritis that can cause inflammation and pain in the joints, the skin, the eyes, the bladder, the genitals and the mucus membranes. Unlike ankylosing spondylitis, ReA does not normally affect the spine and the sacroiliac joints in a majority of cases. Reactive arthritis is thought to occur as a ‘reaction’ to an infection that started elsewhere in the body, generally in the genitourinary or gastrointestinal tract.
Is There a Cure?
Although there is currently no known cure, there are treatments and medications available to reduce symptoms and manage the pain and inflammation caused by ReA.
Potential Causes of Reactive Arthritis
Reactive arthritis occurs after exposure / infection caused by certain types of bacteria. These include:
- Chlamydia, a bacterium contracted during sexually activity, which causes either burning urination or watery discharge from the penis or vagina.
- Bacteria such as Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia or Campylobacter, which cause dysentery (diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, fever). Exposure to these bacteria occurs after eating spoiled or contaminated food.
However, not everyone exposed to these bacteria will contract ReA. Those who go on to develop ReA tend to test positive for the HLA-B27 genetic marker, although other genetic factors may be involved. Thus, it is an interaction between an individual’s genetic make-up and the initial infection that causes Reactive Arthritis.
Disease Course / Prognosis
ReA usually develops 2-4 weeks after the infection. A tendency exists for more severe and long-term disease in patients who do test positive for HLA-B27 as well as those who have a family history of the disease.
Reactive Arthritis typically follows a limited course, where symptoms subsiding in 3-12 months. However, the condition has a tendency to recur. About 15-20% of people with ReA develop a chronic, and sometimes severe, arthritis or spondylitis.