Reiter’s Syndrome (reactive arthritis)

Reiter’s syndrome primarily affects young white men between the ages of 20 and 40.

Women get it only a fifth as often as men.

What is Reiter’s Syndrome?

A form of arthritis characterized by inflammation of the joints, eyes and genital, urinary, or gastrointestional tract. Reiter’s syndrome is also called “reactive arthritis.” Some think that it involves an immune system which is “reacting” to the presence of bacterial infections in the genital, urinary, or gastrointestinal systems.

What causes it?

Reiter’s syndrome is thought to be partly genetic, with exposure to certain infections required to trigger the onset of the disease (this trigger can be a sexually transmitted disease). The HLA-B27 gene is commonly seen in patients with Reiter’s syndrome. 

What are the symptoms? 

Reiter’s Syndrome commonly presents with arthritis, often in the spine and pelvis, inflammation of the urinary tract (nongonococcal urethritis), and inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the eyes and mouth. These symptoms may come and go and may not all be present at one time.

How is it diagnosed?

Reiter’s syndrome is diagnosed based upon symptoms of arthritis with inflammation of the eyes, and the genital, urinary, and/or gastrointestinal systems. The rheumatoid factor is usually negative in Reiter’s syndrome. The HLA-B27 gene marker is commonly present.

How is it Treated?

Treatment of Reiter’s syndrome is based on where the symptoms are in the body. For joint inflammation, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually the treatment choice. Corticosteroids can be helpful to reduce inflammation. 

Sulfasalazine (AZULFIDINE) has been shown to be effective in some patients with Reiter’s syndrome and persistent arthritis.Methotrexate may also be used. 

Eye inflammation can be treated with antiinflammatory drops. Some patients with severe iritis require local injections of cortisone to prevent damaging inflammation to the eye, which can lead to blindness. 

The inflammation around the penis can be helped by cortisone creams. When bacteria are present in the bowel or urine, antibiotics are used.

For more information:

NORD Reiter’s Syndrome

Reiter’s Syndrome

Health Answers- Reiter’s Syndrome

University of Washington