Reactive arthritis is joint pain and swelling triggered by an infection. It ranges from mild to severe. It often goes away on its own. For some, it can be long lasting.
Reactive arthritis is usually caused by an infection in the genitals or digestive system. The body overreacts to the infection. This causes inflammation, even after the infection is gone. Genes may also play a role.
Things that may raise the risk of reactive arthritis are:
Symptoms may occur in the joints, eyes, urinary tract, and genitals.
Symptoms may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. There is no specific test to check for reactive arthritis.
Tests may be done to look for problems and infection. They may include:
X-rays may be done to look at bones and joints.
Most people get better within 12 months. Others develop mild, long term arthritis. Some may have symptoms that keep coming back.
The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms. Options may be:
To reduce the risk of reactive arthritis:
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Public Health Agency of Canada
García-Kutzbach A, Chacón-Súchite J, et al. Reactive arthritis: update 2018. Clin Rheumatol. 2018;37(4):869-874.
Questions and answers about reactive arthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/reactive-arthritis. Accessed April 1, 2021.
Reactive arthritis. American College of Rheumatology website. Available at: https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Reactive-Arthritis. Accessed April 1, 2021.
Reactive arthritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/reactive-arthritis . Accessed April 1, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 4/1/2021