Reactive Arthritis Treatment
There is no cure for reactive arthritis. The goal of treatment is to treat infections and manage symptoms.
Since reactive arthritis may affect different parts of the body, more than one doctor may be involved in the patient's care. A rheumatologist (a doctor with specialized training in arthritis treatment) will likely be the primary doctor. Other specialists may include:
- Dermatologist to treat skin symptoms
- Gynecologist to treat genital symptoms in women
- Ophthalmologist to treat eye disease
- Orthopaedist to perform surgery if joints are severely damaged
- Physical therapist or physiatrist to oversee the patient's exercise routine
- Urologist to treat genital symptoms in men and women
An antibiotic is prescribed to treat the infection. Other medications are prescribed to manage pain and inflammation. They include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These are often the first type of medicine used and include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. All NSAIDs work similarly by blocking substances called prostaglandins that contribute to inflammation and pain. They are available as tablets, capsules and powders.
- Corticosteroids. These medicines help to quickly reduce inflammation. For people with severe joint inflammation, they may be injected into the affected joint. Doctors usually prescribe these injections when NSAIDs have not helped ease symptoms. Corticosteroids also are available in topical forms, which are cream or lotion applied directly to the skin.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). A small number of patients with reactive arthritis have severe symptoms that cannot be controlled with the above-mentioned treatments. In this case, the doctor may prescribe medicines called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Such drugs suppress the immune system. There are two main types: traditional DMARDs and a newer class called biologics.
Exercise helps maintain and improve joint function. Strengthening exercises build up the muscles around the joint and provide better support. Range-of-motion exercises improve movement and flexibility and reduce stiffness in the affected joint. Stretching and water exercises can also be helpful for joints and muscles. Before beginning an exercise program, ask a doctor to recommend appropriate exercises or for a referral to a certified fitness or physical therapy expert.