Reiter's syndrome

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Reiter's syndrome is characterized by arthritis (swollen and painful joints), eye inflammation and irritation, and urinary tract problems. It is generally a temporary condition, but symptoms may come back repeatedly for a few patients.
Reiter's syndrome is considered a type of reactive arthritis because the joints become painful and swollen in response to an infection in the body. Symptoms of Reiter's syndrome typically develop one to three weeks after the initial infection develops. Reiter's syndrome may develop even if the infection is treated quickly or does not last long.
In many patients, the initial infection develops in the genitourinary tract, which includes the bladder, urethra, and penis or vagina. Genitourinary infections are usually passed from person to person through sexual intercourse. This form of the disorder is also called genitourinary or urogenital Reiter's syndrome.
In other patients, the infection develops in the gastrointestinal, or digestive, tract. This form, called enteric or gastrointestinal Reiter's syndrome, develops when an individual consumes food or beverages that are contaminated with bacteria.
Although the infections that cause Reiter's syndrome can be passed to other people, Reiter's syndrome itself is not contagious or sexually transmitted.
Reiter's syndrome is most common among males who are between the ages of 20 and 40. It is considered the most common type of arthritis to affect young men. Researchers estimate that about 3.5 out of 100,000 American males who are younger than 50 years of age develop Reiter's syndrome each year. An estimated three percent of all males with sexually transmitted diseases develop Reiter's syndrome.
Although less common, women can also develop the disorder. For unknown reasons, women typically experience milder symptoms than males.
There is currently no cure for Reiter's syndrome. Treatment is available to help reduce symptoms, and it is necessary to prevent serious complications such as blindness. For most patients, symptoms of Reiter's syndrome go away after two to six months. Only about 20% of patients will have long-term arthritis after the infection is cured. In such cases, the arthritis is typically very mild and does not interfere with daily activities. In about 15-50% of patients, symptoms may go away and come back for several years, which require long-term treatment. A small percentage of patients will have deforming arthritis and severe symptoms that are difficult to control with treatment.

Related Terms

Antibiotics, arthritis, bacteria, bacterial infection, chlamydia, conjunctivitis, corticosteroids, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, DMARDs, gastrointestinal infection, genitourinary tract infection, immune system, immunosuppressants, inflammation, inflammatory response, HLA, HLA-B27, human leukocyte antigen, iritis, reactive arthritis, salmonella, shigella, sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted infection, STD, uveitis, yersinia.