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There are over 200 types of rheumatic disease and over nine million people in the UK have some form of arthritis. Arthritis means inflammation of the joints. Most people with arthritis will experience pain and some difficulty in moving around.

Arthritis affects people of all ages, including children. It is not clear what causes it and there is no cure at present. However, treatment can largely alleviate the symptoms and enable people to continue to live an active life, although some modifications may be necessary.

Rheumatic Conditions FAQs

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Reactive arthritis

Sometimes inflammation of the joints can develop following a bacterial or viral infection elsewhere in the body.  This is known as reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis may be accompanied by symptoms such as red eyes (conjunctivitis), skin rashes, particularly on the hands and/or feet, diarrhoea and mouth ulceration. There may also be inflammation of the genital tract with a discharge of the cervix, vagina or penis.

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, reactive arthritis is usually a short-lived condition which disappears completely in less than 6 months. In 10-20% of people the condition lasts longer, and a very small minority will go on to develop a persistent arthritis which requires long-term treatment.

Reactive arthritis usually begins with pain and swelling of the knees, ankles or toes. These symptoms may occur suddenly or develop over a few days. Other joints, such as the fingers, wrists, elbows and the base of the spine (sacroiliac joints) may also become affected, and inflammation of the tendons at the same time can cause swollen or ‘sausage’ fingers or toes. The condition can affect people of all ages, but is more common in younger age groups.

Treatment consists of antibiotics to treat the causative infection, if this persists. You may also be given drops or ointment for eye inflammation. Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and analgesia (pain relievers) may be prescribed to treat the joint pain and swelling. If the arthritis persists, additional treatment such as disease-modifying therapy (DMARDs) may be required.