Christopher Columbus, Part 3: How Does Reactive Arthritis Compare to Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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What is Reactive Arthritis?

salmonellaReactive Arthritis is the modern name given to Reiter’s Syndrome.  Apparently, the first name lost favor because Reiter was a Nazi.  The name “reactive” refers to the fact that Reactive Arthritis occurs in reaction to an infection. It is also referred to as “post infectious” arthritis.

Usually Reactive Arthritis occurs as a triad of symptoms that includes eye inflammation, urethritis, and arthritis.  The illness may last only a few weeks or become a chronic condition as it did for Columbus. It is triggered by a bacterial infection; suspected culprits include: salmonella, campylobacter, shigella, and Chlamydia. Reactive Arthritis may begin as enteric, which is intestinal in origin, or genitourinary, which is sexually transmitted.

Reactive Arthritis is a spondarthropathy

Reactive Arthritis is part of the same group of conditions as Ankylosing Spondylitis, Psoriatic Arthritis, and Crohn’s Disease.  Patients are almost always seronegative for Rheumatoid factor and positive for a gene marker called HLA-B27. There are other commonalities: foot / heel pain, rashes / psoriasis symptoms, and axial skeleton arthritis which may lead to fused spine.

The gene difference is seen as a predisposition to this type of arthritis. However, an environmental trigger is required for the disease to commence.

How is Reactive Arthritis like Rheumatoid Arthritis?

  • Joint and muscle pains
  • Genetically linked autoimmune disease
  • Typical pattern of flares and remissions
  • Frequent fevers, morning stiffness, and fatigue
  • Prognosis varies widely among patients
  • Various other body systems may also experience inflammation
  • Treated with these medications: NSAIDs, DMARDs, steroids, and Biologics

How is Reactive Arthritis different from Rheumatoid Arthritis?

  • Can more often be “cured” with early treatment
  • Is more common in men than women
  • Typically involves urinary tract symptoms
  • Much more rare than RA
  • Occurs most frequently during the 30’s (slightly younger peak onset age)

Remarkable observations about Reactive Arthritis:

  • Perhaps the mysterious onset of Reactive Arthritis is partially responsible for the stigma of autoimmune illnesses.
  • Ironically, the original illness usually resolves before the Reactive Arthritis begins to flare.
  • Reactive Arthritis itself is not contagious regardless of the initial infection.
  • Many healthy people carry the HLA-B27 gene.
  • Dr. Frank Arnett, rheumatologist and Columbus expert, says he would have treated Columbus with a TNF blocker like Enbrel. “Columbus should have been on one of these drugs. Who knows? It could have changed history.”

More information on Reactive Arthritis: About Reiter’s Syndrome , Reactive arthritis on MedicineNet

More on Columbus and Reactive Arthritis:

Part 2: What kind of Arthritis Did Christopher Columbus Have?

Columbus Day and World Arthritis Day: Is There a Connection?

Recommended reading:


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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 at 6:06 am and is filed under Other. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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