Health Information

Reactive Arthritis (Reiter's Syndrome)

What is reactive arthritis?


Reactive arthritis, also known as Reiter's syndrome, is a type of arthritis that occurs as a reaction to an infection somewhere in the body. Most infections that cause the disease originate in the genitourinary tract (the bladder, urethra, penis, or vagina) and are spread through sexual intercourse, a form of the disease called genitourinary Reiter's syndrome, or urogenital Reiter's syndrome. Other infections that can cause reactive arthritis include gastrointestinal infections due to eating contaminated food or handling contaminated substances, a form of the disease called gastrointestinal Reiter's syndrome, or enteric Reiter's syndrome.

What causes reactive arthritis?

Reactive arthritis, or Reiter's syndrome, is usually preceded by an infection caused by bacteria, such as Chlamydia trachomatis (a sexually transmitted disease) or Salmonella (a bacteria that can contaminate foods). It is important to note that the disease reactive arthritis itself is not contagious, but, rather, the bacteria that causes it. About 75 percent of persons with the tendency to develop this disease have a special gene marker called HLA-B27.

Treatment for reactive arthritis:

Specific treatment for reactive arthritis will be determined by your physician based on:
  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, and therapies
  • expectation for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference