Reactive arthritis history and symptoms

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Akshun Kalia M.B.B.S.[2]


Obtaining history is an important aspect in making a diagnosis of reactive arthritis. The areas of focus should be on onset, duration, and progression of symptoms with special focus on past medical history and current medications. Previous history of gastrointestinal or genitourinary infections may predispose an individual to develop reactive arthritis. Symptoms start to appear after days to weeks of initial gastrointestinal or genitourinary infection. Common symptoms of reactive arthritis include urinary changes (increased frequency, dysuria/burning micturation and urgency), irritation and redness of eyes, and joint pain (arthralgia-commonly of lower limbs). Less common symptoms include inflammation of soft tissue, swollen toes, and skin rash. If symptoms are present for more than six months, it is termed as chronic reactive arthritis.

History and Symptoms


Obtaining history is an important aspect in making a diagnosis of reactive arthritis. It provides insight into cause, precipitating factors and associated comorbid conditions. Complete history will help determine the correct therapy and helps in determining the prognosis. Specific histories about the symptoms (duration, onset, progression), associated symptoms, drug usage have to be obtained. Specific areas of focus when obtaining the history, are outlined below:

Common Symptoms

Common symptoms of reactive arthritis include:[1][2][3]

Less Common Symptoms

Less common symptoms of reactive arthritis include:[4]


  1. Braun J, Laitko S, Treharne J, Eggens U, Wu P, Distler A, Sieper J (February 1994). "Chlamydia pneumoniae--a new causative agent of reactive arthritis and undifferentiated oligoarthritis". Ann. Rheum. Dis. 53 (2): 100–5. PMC 1005260. PMID 8129453.
  2. Wu IB, Schwartz RA (July 2008). "Reiter's syndrome: the classic triad and more". J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 59 (1): 113–21. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2008.02.047. PMID 18436339.
  3. Kanwar AJ, Mahajan R (2013). "Reactive arthritis in India: a dermatologists' perspective". J Cutan Med Surg. 17 (3): 180–8. doi:10.2310/7750.2012.12048. PMID 23673301.
  4. Ngaruiya CM, Martin IB (January 2013). "A case of reactive arthritis: a great masquerader". Am J Emerg Med. 31 (1): 266.e5–7. doi:10.1016/j.ajem.2012.04.019. PMID 22795425.

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