Symptoms of reactive arthritis are:
- Inflammation of the urethra. This can make it painful to urinate. In men, there is sometimes a discharge from the penis.
- Mouth ulcers
- Redness and swelling of the eye
- Patches of scaly skin on the palms, soles, trunk or scalp
- Intestinal tenderness
- Joint pain that comes four to 28 days after the other symptoms. The arthritis usually affects the fingers, toes, ankles, hips and knee joints.
Causes and Risk Factors
The cause of reactive arthritis is still unknown. Research suggests the disease is caused by both genetic and other factors.
More than 80% of Caucasians with the condition, and 50% to 60% of African-Americans, have a positive blood test for the genetic marker HLA-B27. This suggests the disease has a genetic component.
The disease primarily affects sexually active men between the ages of 20 and 40. Most cases of reactive arthritis follow infection with Chlamydia trachomatis or Ureaplasma urealyticum (both are common sexually transmitted diseases). Those with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are at a particularly high risk. With the exception of using condoms during sexual activity, there is no known way to prevent reactive arthritis.
Other people develop the symptoms following an intestinal infection by the bacteria that cause food poisoning. Most women and children who develop reactive arthritis generally get the intestinal form of the disease.