Reactive arthritis involves swelling and joint pain of the knees, ankles and feet that occurs as a result of a bacterial infection in another part of the body, usually the urinary tract, intestines or genitals.
There may be accompanying eye inflammation and urinary difficulties along with the joint pain and swelling. Symptoms may come and go, lasting for approximately a year.
When you present to your doctor’s office with the above symptoms, your joints are examined for warmth, swelling and tenderness, and your eyes are checked for inflammation. Fluid from your inflamed joints may be obtained and tested for infection and inflammation. Blood tests may reveal antibodies for other types of arthritis or genetic markers for reactive arthritis. X-rays may also be helpful for differentiating between other types of arthritis.
Your treatment is focused on the underlying infection with symptomatic treatment of the reactive arthritis. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection, steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation, and rheumatoid arthritis drugs to relieve pain and stiffness. Physical therapy may be recommended to reduce joint stiffness and improve strength.