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What to do About Reactive Arthritis

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Reactive arthritis is an arthritic condition that develops as a response to an immunological challenge.

Common triggers are:

• Food poisoning
• Sexually transmitted infections
• Viruses like flu and rubella
• Rubella containing vaccines can also trigger arthritis.

A manufacturer’s information leaflet for MMR vaccine states, "Arthralgia and/or arthritis (usually transient and rarely chronic), and polyneuritis are features of infection with wild-type rubella and vary in frequency and severity with age and sex, being greatest in adult females and least in prepubertal children. Following vaccination in children, reactions in joints are generally uncommon (0.3 percent) and of brief duration. In women, incidence rates for arthritis and arthralgia are generally higher than those seen in children (12.20 percent), and the reactions tend to be more marked and of longer duration. Symptoms may persist for a matter of months or on rare occasions for years." This is because vaccine viruses can cause a similar immunological challenge to naturally acquired viruses.

Symptoms of reactive arthritis include:

• Pain, swelling and tenderness in the knees, ankles, toes or all three
• Back pain
• Misshapen toes
• Skin disorders
• Opportunistic infections caused by a weakened immune system, such as bladder infections and thrush.


The trigger that started the arthritis will be treated first, as this can often put a stop to the symptoms. If you have a sexually transmitted infection, you will be given medicine for this. Using condoms prevents STI’s.

If you’ve been exposed to a bacterium, you will be offered antibiotics. These won’t work for viruses as they are anti-bacterial and not anti-viral. If you want to try a natural anti-viral treatment, you could try taking vitamin C supplements, which help boost the immune system’s ability to fight infections. You could also try drinking probiotics every day.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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