What is reactive arthritis?

Reactive arthritis develops in reaction to an infection in your body, sometimes in the intestines from food bacteria, urinary tract infections, and most often from the genital area. Both men and women can fall victim to foodborne bacteria, but men are more prone to develop reactive arthritis from a sexually transmitted infection – STI, than women are. The condition usually occurs in adults aged between 20 and 40. Reactive arthritis is not contagious, but the bacteria causing it, can be transmitted sexually.

Some symptoms of reactive arthritis

The signs and symptoms usually start about 2 to 3 weeks after the body has been exposed to a contributing infection.

These can include:

  • Joint pain which targets the knees, ankles and feet, pains which, have normally never bothered you before. Your lower back could also be affected.
  • Many people who suffer from reactive arthritis are prone to eye inflammation like conjunctivitis.
  • Your toes and fingers may get swollen. In severe cases your fingers might look like sausages, and be difficult to move.
  • Your skin can be affected in a variety of ways, with a rash on your hands and arms. Mouth sores, similar to herpes, may also develop.

If you develop any of these symptoms about 3 weeks, especially after a genital infection, contact your doctor. It is important to know if the genital infection has in fact been a STI. Better still, it is important to know which STI it might have been.

The most common STI which can lead to reactive arthritis

Studies have shown that the most prolific STI in the US is known as chlamydia, which is contracted by 1.8 million Americans each year. This is a highly infectious STI, affecting both men and women. But unfortunately, it often has few, or no symptoms, until the condition has well and truly taken hold, when complications may occur.

However, when there are symptoms, in females it includes a discharge from the cervix, bleeding from the vagina, and painful, frequent urination. In males, the symptoms might include pain, tenderness, and swelling in the testicles. The rectum and anal areas may also be affected by sexual contact from an infected person. The symptoms will include rectal pain, bleeding or discharge. Anyone who suspects they might have chlamydia, should get medical intervention to prevent long- term health consequences such as infertility or erectile dysfunction.

Treatment for chlamydia

Chlamydia responds well to treatment, which will be in the form of oral antibiotics. It is very important to complete the course, and visit the doctor to make sure it has completely cleared up.

The medical examination should include a physical to make sure there is no more discharge. Refrain from sex for at least 7 to 10 days, or until the doctor says it is ok to resume sexual relations. Research has revealed that antibiotic treatment is successful in more than 90% of the cases. Don’t mess around with chlamydia, as the very severe STI may lead to raising your risk of developing reactive arthritis. This is not a “joint degenerative” type of arthritis, but still very painful and distressing. When the infection is treated, the chlamydia symptoms should gradually fade away. Because there are sometimes no symptoms, to be safe, experts agree that unless you are in a monogamous relationship, always use a condom when having sex as it is a safe option.

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August 22, 2023

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