Reiter's Syndrome

Reactive arthritis, formerly referred to as Reiter's syndrome, is a form of arthritis that affects the joints, eyes, urethra, and skin.

Causes of Reiter’s Syndrome

  • The cause of reactive arthritis is still unknown, but research suggests the disease is caused, in part, by a genetic predisposition: Approximately 75% of those with the condition have a positive blood test for the genetic marker HLA-B27.

  • In sexually active males, most cases of reactive arthritis follow infection with Chlamydia trachomatis or Ureaplasma urealyticum, both sexually transmitted diseases.

  • In other cases, people develop the symptoms following an intestinal infection with shigella, salmonella, yersinia, or campylobacter bacteria.

Symptoms of Reiter’s Syndrome

  • Mouth ulcers

  • Inflammation of the eye

  • Keratoderma blennorrhagica (patches of scaly skin on the palms, soles, trunk, or scalp)

  • Back pain from sacroiliac (SI) joint involvement

  • Pain from inflammation of the ligaments and tendons at the sites of their insertion into the bone (enthesitis)

Diagnosis of Reiter’s Syndrome

  • There is no specific test for diagnosing reactive arthritis, but the doctor may check the urethral discharge for sexually transmitted diseases.

  • Stool samples may also be tested for signs of infection.

  • Blood tests of reactive arthritis patients are typically positive for the HLA-B27 genetic marker, with an elevated white blood cell count and an increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) both signs of inflammation.

  • The patient may also be mildly anemic (having too few red blood cells in the bloodstream).

  • X-rays of the joints outside the back do not usually reveal any abnormalities unless the patient has had recurrent episodes of the disease.

  • On an X-ray, joints that have been repeatedly inflamed may show areas of bone loss, signs of osteoporosis, or bony spurs.

  • Joints in the back and pelvis (sacroiliac joints) may show abnormalities and damage from reactive arthritis.

Treatment of Reiter’s Syndrome

  • Bacterial infections, such as chlamydia, will need to be treated with antibiotics.

  • Joint inflammation from reactive arthritis is usually treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen, aspirin, or ibuprofen.

  • Skin eruptions and eye inflammation can be treated with steroids.

  • Those with chronic disease may be prescribed other medications, including methotrexate.

  • Patients with chronic arthritis also may be referred to a physical therapist and may be advised to exercise regularly.

diseases treatments syndromes disorders health reactive-arthritis

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