What is Reiter's Syndrome?

By Collette A. Osuna

Reiter's syndrome is a form of arthritis characterized by inflammation of the joints, eyes and genital, urinary or gastrointestinal tract. Reiter's syndrome is also called "reactive arthritis". Some individuals think that it involves the immune system, which is "reacting" to the presence of bacterial infections in the genital, urinary or gastrointestinal systems.

What is the Cause of Reiter's Syndrome?

The exact cause of Reiter's syndrome is unknown. It occurs most commonly in men before the age of 40. It may follow a sexually transmitted disease.

What are the Symptoms?

Reiter's syndrome commonly shows itself as arthritis, often in the pelvis and spine, inflammation of the urinary tract, and inflammation of the mucous membranes in the eyes and mouth. These symptoms need not be present all the time, as they may come and go.

How is Reiter's Syndrome Diagnosed?

Physicians examine the inflammation of the eyes, genital and urinary tracts to diagnose Reiter's syndrome.

How is Reiter's Syndrome Treated?

The treatment of Reiter's Disease is largely based on the individual's symptoms. For joint inflammation, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually preferred. Corticosteroids can be helpful to reduce inflammation.
Eye inflammation can be treated with anti-inflammatory drops. Some patients with severe iritis require local injections of cortisone to prevent damaging inflammation to the eye, which can lead to blindness. When bacteria are present in the bowel or urine, antibiotics are used.

Sulfasalazine* has been shown to be effective in some patients. Methotrexate** may also be used.

*Sulfasalazine is a sulfonamide used to treat ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

**Methotrexate is an antimetabolite agent used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and certain types of cancers. Methotrexate is also used to treat ectopic pregnancy and can be used for early abortion. Find more about treatment for Ectopic Pregnancy at http://www.ectopic.org.uk.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Reiter's syndrome. Relapse occurs in about one third of cases, especially after further episodes of non-specific urethritis. The illness may resolve in 3 to 4 months, but up to one-half of those affected experience recurrences of the arthritis or other symptoms of the syndrome over a period of several years. The condition may become chronic. About 20 per cent of patients with Reiter's syndrome develop sacroilitis and ascending spinal disease.

Reiter's syndrome primarily affects young white men between the ages of 20 and 40.

Women have Reiter's syndrome only one fifth as often as men.


Written by: Collette A. Osuna
Collette Osuna is a free lance writer from the south eastern Michigan area. She is a single mother of two beautiful children. Her life's trials have given her an open mind and have sent her on a vigilant quest for the truth in all aspects of life, crushing lies and injustices through her writing.

"The women's movement will present a growing threat to partriarchial religion less by attacking it than by simply leaving it behind."
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