Reactive arthritisSymptoms

The symptoms of reactive arthritis usually develop shortly after you get an infection, such as a sexually transmitted infection or bowel infection.

The symptoms of reactive arthritis usually develop shortly after you get an infection, such as a sexually transmitted infection or bowel infection.

The main, and sometimes only, symptom of reactive arthritis is pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints and tendons.

It can also affect the:

  • genital tract
  • eyes

However, not everyone will get symptoms in these areas.

You should see your GP as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms, especially if you have recently had diarrhoea or problems peeing.

Joint symptoms

Reactive arthritis can affect any joints, but it's most common in the knees, feet, toes, hips and ankles.

Symptoms include:

  • pain, tenderness and swelling in your joints
  • pain and tenderness in some tendons, especially at the heels
  • pain in your lower back and buttocks
  • sausage-like swelling of your fingers and toes
  • joint stiffness – particularly in the morning

Genital tract symptoms

Sometimes, you can also have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. These include:

  • needing to pee suddenly, or more often than usual
  • pain or a burning sensation when peeing
  • smelly or cloudy pee
  • blood in your pee
  • pain in your lower tummy
  • feeling tired and unwell

Eye symptoms

Occasionally, you may get inflammation of the eyes (conjunctivitis or, rarely, iritis).

Symptoms can include:

  • red eyes
  • watery eyes
  • eye pain
  • swollen eyelids
  • sensitivity to light

See an eye specialist or go to A&E as soon as possible if one of your eyes becomes very painful and the vision becomes misty.

This could be a symptom of iritis – and the sooner you get treatment, the more successful it is likely to be.

Other symptoms

Reactive arthritis can also cause:

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2018
Next review due: 15/01/2021