Treating reactive arthritis

There's no cure for reactive arthritis, but the condition is usually temporary and treatment can help to relieve your symptoms.

Most people will make a full recovery in about six months, although around one in five cases lasts a year or more, and a small number of people experience long-term joint problems.

There is also a risk you could develop the condition again after another infection.


In the initial stages of reactive arthritis, it's recommendedthat you get plenty of rest and avoid using affected joints.

As your symptoms improve, you should begin a gradual programme of exercisedesigned to strengthen affected muscles and improve the range of movement in your affected joints.

Your GP or specialist may recommend a suitable exercise programme for your arthritis . Alternatively, you may be referred to a physiotherapist for Physiotherapy .

You might also find ice packs and heat pads useful in reducing joint pain and swelling, although these should not be directly placed on yourskin.


Antibiotics may not help to treat reactive arthritis itself, but they are sometimes prescribed if you have an ongoing infection particularly if you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) . Your recent sexual partner(s) may also need treatment.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) , such as ibuprofen ,are the main medication used for reactive arthritis, as they can help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

However, taking a regular dose of a NSAID on a long-term basis can increase your risk of problems such as stomach ulcers . If you are at an increased risk of developing stomach ulcers, your GP may recommend an additional medication known as a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), which can protect your stomach by reducing the production of stomach acid.

Rarely, long-term use of NSAIDscan also slightly increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke . Prednisolone can be given as an injection into a joint or as a tablet. Eye drops are also available if you have inflamed eyes ( conjunctivitis ).

Around1 in 20 people who take prednisolone will experience changes in their mental state, such as depression or hallucinations . Contact your GP as soon as possible if you notice any changes in your thoughts or behaviour.

Other side effects can include weight gain, acne , stomach ulcers and osteoporosis ,although these should improve as your dose is decreased.

A DMARD called sulfasalazine is usually the preferred option. Common side effects of sulfasalazine include feeling sick, loss of appetite and headaches , although these usually improve once your body gets used to the medication.

DMARDs may alsocause changes inyour blood or liver, so it's important to have regular bloodtests while taking these medicines.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 29 Nov 2016