Reactive arthritis is highlighted this month in our ongoing series on patient education materials.
Reactive arthritis sometimes develops as a response to a bacterial or viral agent present in the body. While patients usually recovery fully, this type of infectious arthritis can be painful and may last for months or years, requiring physician care and medical treatment.
“Reactive arthritis is a self-limiting form of arthritis that develops in response to an infectious agent,” says fact sheet author Vivian Bykerk, MD. “Depending on the infectious agent itself and the individual’s genetic predisposition, the illness also can be associated with other symptoms, including conjunctivitis, redness or discharge from the penis or cervix, genital ulcers which may or may not be painful, and a skin rash on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.”
Although many infections, including viruses, can cause reactive arthritis, the term usually applies to symptoms occurring after an infection of the bowel (caused by the germs Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and Yersinia) or genitals (caused by Chlamydia trachomatis).
“No one is entirely sure of the relationship between the bacteria and the cause of the arthritis,” notes Dr. Bykerk. “Clearly, the genetic predisposition to react to these specific bacteria with an arthritis illness must exist. However, the joints themselves are not actually infected. Rather, they are inflamed as a result of these bacteria triggering the immune system. In reactive arthritis, typically the immune system readjusts this response and the condition ultimately goes away.”
ACR Patient Education Materials
The reactive arthritis fact sheet and other complimentary ACR patient education materials not only serve as valuable practice resources, they provide an unbiased source of information about rheumatic disease and new developments in research and treatment, and they emphasize the role of rheumatologists and health professionals in the care of rheumatic diseases.
- Every ACR patient fact sheet includes substantive information and supporting illustrations or photos;
- Information on more than 40 topics is available online at www.rheumatology. org; and
- ACR patient fact sheets can be used to supplement and reinforce the information available in the rheumatologist’s office.