9 Symptoms of Reiter’s Syndrome

Reiter’s syndrome, Reiter syndrome, or reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis that afflicts people who have a certain bacterial infection. The actual infection occurs in the person’s genitals, urinary tract or in their intestines. The condition is not in itself contagious, though the bacteria can be spread. Reiter’s syndrome has no cure as of 2018, but it often resolves within two to six months. Indeed, often by the time the symptoms of arthritis arrive, the bacterial infection is over.

The bacteria most likely to cause Reiter’s syndrome are Shigella, Campylobacter, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Yersinia, Salmonella or Chlamydia. The bacterial infection is often the result of food poisoning or has been sexually transmitted. Shigella is most often the bacteria that triggers the arthritis after food poisoning, while Chlamydia is the triggering virus in the case of an STI.

Reiter’s syndrome usually affects young men between 20 and 40. Women tend to have milder symptoms if they are affected. It is more common in Caucasians than black people. This is because the syndrome is linked to the HLA-B27 gene, which is found more often in whites than in people of color. Researchers do not know how the bacteria and the gene interact to cause Reiter’s syndrome. The condition is sometimes one of the first signs that the patient has contracted HIV.

Symptoms usually develop about one to three weeks after the person has contracted the triggering bacteria, but the incubation times can vary. Signs and symptoms are:

1. Joint pain

The arthritis of Reiter’s syndrome usually involves the knees, feet, ankles, heels and lower spine. Researchers believe that the joint pain is caused by synovitis, which happens when the synovial membrane is inflamed. The synovial membrane lines joints that move, like the knee. These joints are lubricated with synovial fluid. When the patient suffers from synovitis, the joint not only hurts but swells up because of the accumulation of the synovial fluid.

Since Reiter’s syndrome usually does not last a long time, the synovitis does not necessarily cause damage to the joints the way osteoarthritis does. However, if the synovitis lasts a long time, the joints may start to degenerate.