Reactive arthritis is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis. It occurs in reaction to an infection, typically with a bacteria or virus. Bacterial infections are often secondary to (Chlamydia trachomatis) or the bowel (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella and Yersinia). Chlamydia most often transmits by sex and is considered a STD. It often has no symptoms, but can cause a pus-like or watery discharge from the genitals. The bowel bacteria can cause diarrhea. If you develop arthritis within one month of diarrhea or a genital infection – especially with a discharge – see a health care provider. You may have reactive arthritis.
Reactive arthritis can have any or all of these features:
- Pain and swelling of joints which is most often migrating in nature
- Swelling and pain in the heels
- Extensive swelling of your toes or fingers
- Persistent lower back pain, which tends to be worse at night or in the morning
- red or painful eye, which can indicate inflammation of the eye.
Currently we do not have one specific test to tell us you have reactive arthritis. Diagnosis is based on your symptoms, exam, x rays and inflammatory lab work.
1. Medication to treat the main infection
Because reactive arthritis is an autoimmune reaction, antibiotics have note been shown to treat the arthritis, though they can help clear an infection. Often, NSAIDs are use first line and if needed a steroid or other immune suppressant.
Urinary Tract or Gastrointestinal System
If you have obvious signs of a bacterial infection in your urinary tract or gastrointestinal system, antibiotics can help it clear up. Which antibiotic you take will depend on what kind of bacterial infection you have. Your doctor may need to run tests to find out. Viral and fungal infections are harder to treat.
2. NSAIDs for swelling and joint pain
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve pain and inflammation from arthritis. Over-the-counter NSAIDs include:
- ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB)
- naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn)
Your doctor may have other treatment options as well.