What is Reactive Arthritis?


Reactive arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis which affects the joints, and may affect the eyes, skin and urinary tract (bladder, vagina, urethra). It occurs when bacteria enters the blood stream from one or both of the following areas of the body:

  • Urogenital tract. Bacteria can enter through the vagina or urethra during sexual contact and spread to the bladder.
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Bacteria can enter the body if you eat spoiled food or food that came into contact with contaminated surfaces.

Usually the knees, ankles or toes becomes swollen, stiff and painful. Sometimes, the fingers may be affected. 

Two other conditions are associated with reactive arthritis:

  • Conjunctivitis. Also called pink eye, it causes eye redness and swelling.
  • Urethritis. This is inflammation of the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.

Reactive arthritis typically begins within 2 to 4 weeks after infection. It’s not contagious, but the bacterium that triggers the disease can pass from person to person.

Who’s Affected?

Men age 40 and younger are most commonly affected. Evidence shows that they are nine times more likely than women to get the disease due to a sexually transmitted infection. However, both sexes are equally likely to get it from a food-related infection.