January 9, 2013

Reiter’s Syndrome (Reactive Arthritis) – Reactions & Swelling of Body

Posted in Category : Bone, Joint & Muscles Disorders

The inflammation of a joint is known as arthritis. If the arthritis is caused when a joint reacts to an infection in some other part of the body, it is known as reactive arthritis. Usually, the infection that occurs in the gut or urethra causes reactive arthritis.

Reiter’s Syndrome (Reactive Arthritis): When you develop inflammation in joints after having an infection elsewhere in the body, it is called as reactive arthritis. It is a group of inflammatory conditions that involves the joints, urethra, and eyes. Lesions on the skin and mucous membranes can also develop.

There are three apparently disparate symptoms associated with Reiter’s syndrome. They are arthritis, redness of the eyes, and urinary tract signs. Reiter’s syndrome causes an inflammatory condition throughout the body especially in spinal areas where tendons are attached to the bones. So, this disorder is referred to as a seronegative spondyloarthropathy. Swelling, heat, and pain are the characteristic reactions associated with Reiter’s syndrome. Reiter’s syndrome is observed as a reaction to infection in any part of the body. Since the immune system of the body reacting to a bacterial infection, joint inflammation is felt. The aberrant reaction of the immune system leads to spontaneous inflammation in the joints, resulting in reactive arthritis.

Symptoms: Since the symptoms of reactive arthritis are different for different infections, one need to identify the underlying cause. Usually, urinary symptoms such as pain and burning during urination appear within days followed by conjunctivitis and low grade fever. Mild or severe arthritis occurs. Symptoms include:

  • Redness in eyes
  • Burning of eye
  • Eye discharge
  • Skin lesions
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Urinary and genital symptoms
  • Burning or stinging during urination
  • Urinary urgency or hesitancy
  • Urethral discharge
  • Genital lesions in male
  • Penis pain
  • Joint pain predominantly knee pain, hip pain and ankle pain
  • Achilles tendon pain
  • Lower back pain

Causes: The exact causes of reactive arthritis are not clear. However, it occurs commonly due to bacterial infection. The most common bacteria that trigger Reiter’s syndrome include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Salmonella
  • Yersinia
  • Shigella
  • Campylobacter

Certain genes such as HLA B27gene can also trigger the syndrome

Treatment: In order to relieve the symptoms, treatment for underlying infection is essential. Conjunctivitis and skin lesions can resolve their own and do not require any treatment. If bacterial infections trigger reactive arthritis, antibiotics are prescribed. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers are prescribed to lower inflammation and alleviate the pain. In severe cases, corticosteroids may be injected into the affected areas and immunosuppressants can be given. Eye drops can be prescribed for severe eye inflammation.

Physical therapy can improve joint function. Strengthening exercises increase the joint support and strengthen the muscles around the affected joints. Exercises provide flexibility and reduce stiffness.  Since reactive arthritis may recur periodically, supervision under a rheumatologist helps to ease the condition. Though there is no cure for this disease, proper treatment can alleviate the pain effectively.

Eating healthy diet and supplements can reduce the symptoms. It is important to keep away from saturated fat like fried items and meats as these foods can worsen the inflammation. Including more nuts, fish like salmon, flaxseed helps to reduce inflammation. Ensure to include sources of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and selenium as these can improve immune system. Omega fatty acids help to reduce inflammation.

Herbs help to strengthen the immune system of the body in a safe way. The enzyme derived from pineapple, bromelain, helps in reducing joint inflammation. Turmeric enhances the effects of bromelain.  Other herbs that can reduce inflammation include licorice, cat’s claw, boswelliam etc.  Corn silk and Uva Ursi help to cure urinary tract infection.


  1. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/reiter-syndrome-000141.htm
  2. http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/reactive_arthritis
  3. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000440.htm
  4. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/reiter-syndrome-000141.htm