Reactive arthritis: a clinical review

J R Coll Physicians Edinb. 2021 Sep;51(3):288-297. doi: 10.4997/JRCPE.2021.319.


Reactive arthritis (ReA) is a form of inflammatory arthritis triggered by a remote antecedent infection, usually in the genitourinary or gastrointestinal tract. It is part of the spondyloarthropathy (SpA) spectrum, an umbrella term for a group of distinct conditions with shared clinical features. Typically, it presents with an asymmetric oligoarthritis of the lower limb joints, and patients may also have sacroiliitis, enthesitis and dactylitis. Other features often seen include anterior uveitis, urethritis and skin manifestations such as pustular lesions on the plantar areas. Although ReA was characterised initially as a sterile arthritis, the detection of metabolically active Chlamydia species in the joint fluid of some affected patients has generated further questions on the pathophysiology of this condition. There are no formal diagnostic criteria, and the diagnosis is mainly clinical. HLA-B27 can support the diagnosis in the correct clinical context, and serves as a prognostic indicator. The majority of patients have a self-limiting course, but some develop chronic SpA and require immunomodulatory therapy.

Keywords: reactive arthritis; seronegative arthropathy; spondyloarthropathy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Reactive* / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Reactive* / etiology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Prohibitins