Reiter’s Syndrome and Reactive Arthritis are often considered to be the same disease. Reiter’s 3 classic symptoms are arthritis, urinary tract infection and inflamed eyes although Reactive Arthritis can result from a gastro-intestinal illness or food poisoning too.
RS (Reiter’s Syndrome) or RA (Reactive Arthritis) in either case are auto-immune diseases, an inappropriate response of one’s own immune system to a disease or food poisoning in a completely different part of the body. The symptoms can form quickly or develop over weeks. Usually it is over by 6 months but in a third of cases it can last for years, RS/RA mainly affects men in the 20-50 age group.
The joints of the legs and feet (particularly the achilles tendon) are usually the worst affected but arthritis of the upper body joints can occur too. Skin rashes are common and your joints can get very painful and swollen. Men are thought to be more susceptible to RS/RA because they are more commonly affected by Urinary Tract infections (UTI’s) and sexually transmitted diseases (SDI’s) than women are. Of these UTI’s, chlamydia is thought to be the most common.
In the UK one in 14 people are thought to possess the HLA-B17 gene, with 75% of all RS/RA sufferers in the UK possessing this gene a hereditary link is strongly suspected. Some reference sources claim that RS/RA is rare but others state that up to 1/100 UTI’s and 1/100 Gastro Intestinal Infections go onto develop arthritic symptoms.
Treatments include drugs such as methatrexate, voltarin and analgesia. Alkaline and non-nightshade diets are sometimes helpful. Acupuncture, physio, chiropractic, osteopathy, traction, stretching and massage are all mentioned as useful interventions in the RS/RA chat-rooms online too.
RS/RA sufferers often report that keeping their joints warm and not sitting too still for too long helps ease their pain levels. Eating well, adequate hydration, meditating, good stress management and sufficient sleep are all highly recommended strategies from experienced sufferers of RS/RA.
Despite the fact that a UTI or dysentry may be easily treated with an antibiotic, Reactive Arthritis can still persist long after the bug that precipitated it passes. One in 10 cases of RS/RA are said to result from an unknown bacteria or virus which raises the question how such cases can even be considered to be RS/RA given there is no definitive test for it (just a positve ESR which may also be indicative of PMR or Haemachromatosis).
You may need to try combinations of different treatment in order to manage your own symptoms. Do whatever exercise you can but approach with caution because inflamed cartilage does not respond well to sudden move or even moderate impact, stretching can be tricky too.
Remain posture conscious and use Self Massage in the places your muscles are stiff.