Reactive Arthritis Symptoms


The most common symptoms of reactive arthritis are inflammation in the joints, eyes, bladder and urethra (the tube that helps remove urine from the body). Sometimes, mouth sores and skin rashes may occur.

Here are some possible symptoms identified by body area.

Joint Symptoms

  • Pain and swelling in knees, ankles, feet and sometimes the fingers and wrists
  • Swelling of the tendons (tendinitis) or where tendons attach to the bone (enthesitis)
  • Heel pain and heel spurs (bony growths in the heel)
  • Lower back and buttock pain
  • Inflammation in the spine (spondylitis) or in the lower back that connect the spine to the pelvis (sacroliitis)

Eye Symptoms

  • Redness of the eyes
  • Eye pain and irritation
  • Blurred vision

These symptoms can be signs of inflammation of the eyeball and eyelid (conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye”) or the inner eye (uveitis).

Urinary Symptoms

  • Pain during urination
  • Need to urinate more frequently

Reactive arthritis symptoms can be very mild and come and go over several weeks to months. So they may not be noticeable in the early stages. Urinary symptoms usually appear first but may absent in women. This symptom may occur with, or be followed by conjunctivitis. Arthritis is usually the last symptom to appear.

With proper treatment, most people with reactive arthritis recover fully and can resume normal activities a few months after initial symptoms. However, arthritis symptoms may last up to a year, but they are usually mild and do not interfere with daily life. Some people with reactive arthritis will have long-term, but mild, arthritis. Studies show that between 15 and 50 percent of patients will develop symptoms again, possibly due to re-infection. Back pain and arthritis are the symptoms that most commonly reappear. A few patients will have chronic, severe arthritis that is difficult to control with treatment and may cause joint damage.

The Arthritis Foundation is the leading organization 
providing support and funding research to improve the 
lives of individuals with arthritis. You can help!