Reiter’s syndrome

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is Reiter’s syndrome?

Reiter syndrome is a type of condition reactive arthritis that happens as a reaction to a bacterial infection in the body. The infection usually happens in the intestines, genitals, or urinary tract. Reiter syndrome includes redness, joint swelling and pain, often in knees, ankles, and feet, along with inflammation of the eyes and urinary tract. It is not contagious. But the bacteria that trigger it can be passed from one person to another. There is no cure for Reiter syndrome, but you can control the symptoms. For most people, symptoms go away in 2 to 6 months.

How common is Reiter’s syndrome?

This type of disease can affect both men and women with the same rate. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of Reiter’s syndrome?

The common symptoms of this condition are:


Includes pain, swelling, stiffness, and redness of joints, usually the hips, knees, ankles, spine, and feet.

Conjunctivitis, inflammation of the eye

It is usually brief and mild.

Iritis, inflammation of the iris of the eye

Less common but needs immediate medical treatment to avoid eye damage.

Uveitis, inflammation of the inner eye

Less common but needs immediate medical treatment to avoid eye damage.

Urinary tract infection

You may have pain or burning during urination and frequent urge to urinate. It may includes inflammation of the prostate or cervix. Men may have pus drainage from penis.

Painless, shallow ulcers on the penis

Pus-filled sores on soles, palms, and penis

It may also includes mouth sores.

Rashes of small nodules on the soles of the feet, and, less often, on the palms of the hands or elsewhere

Heart problems

It affects about 10% of people who have Reiter syndrome.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes Reiter’s syndrome?

Reiter syndrome is caused by a bacterial infection. However, researchers do not know exactly why some people develop Reiter syndrome after an infection while others do not, although they think that genetics may play a role. The following factors may raise your risk for Reiter syndrome, include:

HLA-B27 gene

About 80% of people with Reiter syndrome have the HLA-B27 gene. Only 6% of people who do not have the syndrome have the HLA-B27 gene.

Bacterial triggers, such as Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, and Campylobacter.

Sexually transmitted disease (STD) triggers, such as chlamydia.

White males, ages of 20 to 50, are at higher risk. Women tend to have milder symptoms.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Reiter’s syndrome?

There are many risk factors for this condition, such as:

  • Age

Reiter’s syndrome occurs most frequently in adults between the ages of 20 and 40.

  • Sex

Women and men are equally likely to develop Reiter’s syndrome in response to foodborne infections. However, men are more likely than are women to develop Reiter’s syndrome in response to sexually transmitted bacteria.

  • Hereditary factors

A specific genetic marker has been linked to Reiter’s syndrome. But many people who have this marker never develop the condition.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Reiter’s syndrome diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. Some recommended tests may include:

  • Blood tests

Your doctor might recommend that a sample of your blood be tested for:

  • Evidence of past or current infection
  • Signs of inflammation
  • Antibodies associated with other types of arthritis
  • A genetic marker linked to Reiter’s syndrome
  • Joint fluid tests

Your doctor might use a needle to withdraw a sample of fluid from within an affected joint. This fluid will be tested for:

  • White blood cell count

An increased number of white blood cells might indicate inflammation or an infection.

  • Infections

Bacteria in your joint fluid might indicate septic arthritis, which can result in severe joint damage.

  • Crystals

Uric acid crystals in your joint fluid might indicate gout. This very painful type of arthritis often affects the big toe.

  • Imaging tests

X-rays of your low back, pelvis and joints can indicate whether you have any of the characteristic signs of Reiter’s syndrome. X-rays can also rule out other types of arthritis.

How is Reiter’s syndrome treated?

Some treatment options may be recommended by your doctor, include:


If your Reiter’s syndrome was triggered by a bacterial infection, your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic if there is evidence of persistent infection. Which antibiotic you take depends on the bacteria that are present.

For your arthritis signs and symptoms, your doctor might recommend:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Prescription NSAIDs, such as indomethacin (Indocin), can relieve the inflammation and pain of Reiter’s syndrome.

  • Corticosteroids

Injection of a corticosteroid into affected joints can reduce inflammation and allow you to return to your normal activity level.

  • Topical steroids

These might be used for skin rashes caused by Reiter’s syndrome.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis drugs

Limited evidence suggests that medications such as sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), methotrexate (Trexall) or etanercept (Enbrel) can relieve pain and stiffness for some people with Reiter’s syndrome.

Physical therapy

A physical therapist can provide you with targeted exercises for your joints and muscles. Strengthening exercises develop the muscles around your affected joints, which increase the joint’s support. Range-of-motion exercises can increase your joints’ flexibility and reduce stiffness.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Reiter’s syndrome?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with this condition:

Make sure your food is stored at proper temperatures and is cooked properly to help you avoid the many foodborne bacteria that can cause Reiter’s syndrome, including salmonella, shigella, yersinia and campylobacter. Some sexually transmitted infections can trigger Reiter’s syndrome. Using condoms might lower your risk.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: August 29, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019

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