If the joints ache frequently without excessive strain, are swollen and heated, this may be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis. (Image: Peera/fotolia.com)
Some people suddenly experience unpleasant joint pain, eye itching and discomfort during urination after overcoming an infectious disease. The cause in such cases is often a so-called reactive arthritis. Affected individuals are often significantly impaired by the symptoms. It is not uncommon for the symptoms to progress to a chronic stage.
Reactive arthritis occurs after a previous infection and is accompanied by symptoms such as urethritis, conjunctivitis, joint inflammation (mostly large joints) and other inflammatory processes. Skin changes can also be present. The invaded pathogens trigger an autoimmune reaction in the immune system, which leads to inflammation in various parts of the organism – it is therefore an autoimmune disease.
The symptoms were originally called Morbus Reiter or Reiter's disease after its discoverer Hans Reiter (1881-1969), but because of his involvement in the Third Reich, this name is not in use today. Current medical names are reactive arthritis, rheumatic fever, acute articular rheumatism, urethro-oculo-synovial syndrome, undifferentiated oligoarthritis, arthritis dysenterica or postenteritic reactive arthritis.
Affected are mostly younger men and people with a special surface feature on the cells called HLA-B 27. After contracting gonorrhea, chlamydia, scarlet fever, or gastrointestinal infections with bacteria such as Yersinia, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Shigella, affected individuals develop an autoimmune reaction that leads to inflammation in various parts of the body. This rection can start up to three weeks after the initial infection and the original pathogens are no longer involved, but the immune defense mistakenly shows an exaggerated reaction.
The treatment options for reactive arthritis are limited to alleviating the symptoms, whereby so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often used to treat the joint complaints, but the use of cortisone can also be considered. In naturopathy, cold applications in particular have proven effective against joint pain. Here the ice bath from the range of the hydrotherapy is to be mentioned, into which the respective joints for approximately 30 seconds are held, in addition, extremely cold compresses can provide relief. Patients with high blood prere, however, should be careful with the cold applications. If necessary, first consult with their doctor.
Bathing in a bowl of ice water can be used to treat joint pain, but this is not suitable for all patients and is only for symptom relief. (Image: akulamatiau/fotolia.com)
More than 50 percent of sufferers are free of symptoms after six months at the latest, but in almost one third of cases a chronic form of the disease develops that requires long-term medication. Complications or lasting damage can also occur if adjacent structures at the joint or in the eye are attacked or structurally altered.