Reiter’s syndrome is an inflammatory reaction to an infection somewhere in the body. It usually follows an infection of the urinary, genital, or digestive tract. Symptoms of the disorder primarily involve:
Reiter's syndrome is triggered by certain infections in a genetically sensitive person. The infection often starts in the urinary or genital tract. It is usually caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.Chlamydia is passed between people through sexual activity.
The infection can also begin in the digestive system. In these cases, the infection occurs after eating food tainted with bacteria, usually Shigella, Salmonella, Yersinia, or Campylobacter.
About 1 to 4 weeks after the infection, a susceptible person may develop Reiter’s syndrome. Doctors do not know why some people develop the disease and others do not. Most patients with the condition carry a specific genetic factor called HLA-B27 (or the B27 gene).
Factors that increase your risk of getting Reiter's syndrome include:
Symptoms occur in three main areas of the body: the joints, the eyes, and the urinary tract and genitals. Men and women may experience different symptoms. The disease may be milder in women. Symptoms may come and go. In rare cases, heart problems may develop later in the disease.
Specific symptoms include the following:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor uses these findings to help make the diagnosis. There is no specific test to check for Reiter’s syndrome.
Your doctor may need to test your bodily fluids and tissues. This can be done with:
Your doctor may need pictures of your bodily structures. This can be done with X-rays.
There is no cure for Reiter’s syndrome. Most patients recover from the initial episode within 12 months. But some develop mild, chronic arthritis. Some patients suffer from additional episodes of the disorder.
Treatment aims to relieve symptoms and may include:
Short-term rest to take the strain off the joints
Your doctor may prescribe some of the following:
The key to preventing Reiter's syndrome is avoiding the triggering infection. To do so, take these steps:
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Spondylitis Association of America
The Arthritis Society
Public Health Agency of Canada
Questions and answers about reactive arthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.n... . Accessed January 2, 2013.
Reactive arthritis. American College of Rheumatology website. Available at: http://www.rheumat... . Updated February 2012. Accessed January 2, 2013.
Reactive arthritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated November 29, 2011. Accessed January 2, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 03/15/2013