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Ankylosing Spondylitis & Related Diseases Information
Reactive Arthritis (ReA): Quick Links
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Overview
Because there is no specific laboratory test for reactive arthritis, doctors sometimes find it difficult to diagnose. As with other forms of spondylitis, a rheumatologist is commonly the type of physician who will make a diagnosis of ReA. A medical examination is necessary, which may include various blood tests to rule out other conditions, a test for the HLA-B27 genetic marker, and x-rays may be taken as well.

Medical Examination
A doctor will take the patient's complete medical history, noting current symptoms as well as any previous diseases, problems and infections. In addition to evaluating symptoms, diagnostic signs of reactive arthritis include:

  • Long-standing, persistent low back pain that came on gradually (commonly radiating from the buttocks) before the age of 45.

  • Generalized body stiffness that is most severe upon awaking, and gets better with exercise rather than worse.

  • A history of swelling in the feet and hands, especially heel pain.

It may be useful for someone to keep a log of symptoms that occur, when they occur, and for how long. It is especially important to report any flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever, vomiting, diarrhea), even if they were mild, since they may be an indicator of the initial bacterial infection.

Blood tests may be done to determine the presence of rheumatoid factor or antinuclear antibodies. Results of these tests are usually normal in people with ReA. Other tests may be done like testing for the presence of Chlamydia, cells may be taken from the throat as well as urethra or cervix, a stool sample may be taken, and synovial fluid (fluid that lubricates the joints), may be removed from the affected joints for study.

Sometimes X-rays may be done in order to determine sacroiliac involvement, swelling of the soft tissues, damage to cartilage, and bone deposits where the tendon attaches to the bone.

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