Reiter’s disease

Reiter’s disease, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. Another name for this disease is reactive arthritis or sometimes soldier’s disease, which refers to the First World War. This disease is sometimes confused with ankylosing spondylitis, where many symptoms are the same. We often see inflammation of the joints, but inflammation of the urethra and the eye also occur. It is not always easy to diagnose Reiter’s disease.

Reiter’s disease

Reiter’s disease, also called Reiter’s syndrome, is named after the German bacteriologist H. Reiter who died in 1969. In 1916, this bacteriologist described a disease that closely resembled gonorrhea, but in which the causative bacterium was not found. The disease was also called soldier’s disease at the time because it was common among soldiers during the First World War. Since then, more and more research has been done into this disease and people are now sufficiently familiar with Reiter’s disease.


Reiter’s disease is a rheumatic joint disease and therefore falls under the name rheumatism. Rheumatism is a collective name for chronic disorders of joints, muscles and tendons. Reiter’s disease is one of these and involves various inflammatory processes in the body. The cause for this disease is a microorganism, often Campylobacter jejuni . This bacterium is mainly found in meat products and chicken products. This bacteria is also frequently found in raw milk. The bacterium is responsible for many intestinal diseases and can sometimes also cause Reiter’s disease. Another cause is the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis , which we mainly know from the venereal disease chlamydia. This bacteria is transmitted during sex. Salmonella is also an important cause and is mainly known from infections via eggs or chicken meat.
Reiter’s disease is more common in people who have had an intestinal infection or an infection of the urinary tract. Apparently the causing bacteria has been given the opportunity to penetrate deeper into the body. In addition, Reiter’s disease occurs more often within one family, which means there is sometimes a hereditary predisposition.


The disease often occurs in attacks with clear symptoms and complaints. The symptoms may be temporary and go away, but they can also return in full force. An attack lasts from several weeks to several months. The most common joint inflammation, also called arthritis. The joints in the hands, elbows and knees are especially often inflamed. Inflammations of the joints also occur elsewhere in the body. Pain in the lower back is a phenomenon that occurs more often. Pain may also occur in the feet, especially the heel of the foot. So it is not the case that the inflammation is specifically located in one place. Joint pain and loss of function are important features. In addition, inflammation of the urethra often occurs. The complaints consist of pain when urinating and/or a burning sensation. Sometimes urination is not possible due to the pain. This can cause other inflammations, such as the bladder. Sometimes there is blood in the urine.
Another symptom is inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye. This is also called conjunctivitis. With conjunctivitis, the eye is red and painful. Pus often also comes out of the eye. Usually, red spots also appear that are strongly reminiscent of psoriasis or another skin disease. Inflammation of the cervix is more common in women. Reiter’s disease is strongly reminiscent of ankylosing spondylitis. The complaints are often the same. The symptoms do not all occur at the same time. The symptoms often alternate, making it difficult to diagnose.


This disease sometimes occurs once or in multiple attacks and can then disappear spontaneously. The more often the attacks return, the greater the chance that this disease will become chronic. Once it becomes chronic, the attacks last longer and longer. The treatment partly depends on the cause. In case of an infection by a bacteria, antibiotics will be administered. Viruses are resistant to antibiotics. When Reiter’s disease is chronic, treatment will often consist of relieving the symptoms. For example, various medications aimed at inhibiting inflammation and pain relief, as well as exercise therapy, can help. It is often difficult for doctors to recognize Reiter’s disease. This is because not all symptoms occur at the same time and often the disease appears to have disappeared but then continues unnoticed. Inflammations are also not always found in the blood.

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