Causes of Reiter’s Syndrome

Reiter’s syndrome is a disorder that causes three outwardly dissimilar symptoms such as arthritis, redness of the eyes, and urinary tract signs. The ailment is characterized by inflammation all over the body, especially in areas of the spine. Those joints where tendons are attached to the bones also get affected. The arthritis is caused as a “reaction” to an infection that actually got initiated in some other body part. Due to this reason, it is also termed as ‘reactive arthritis’. Reiter’s Syndrome makes its presence known in a patient within three weeks of infection.

In most cases, the infection gets initiated in the genitourinary tract that includes urethra, bladder, vagina or pelvis. This disease is sometimes referred to as genitourinary Reiter’s syndrome. It is mainly through sexual contact that this disease spreads from one person to another. In this case, a bacterium named Chlamydia trachomatis plays the villain.

Gastrointestinal Reiter’s syndrome is yet another kind of the disease which is caused by bacteria which enters the body through food. Different kinds of bacteria can cause the infection in digestive tract. Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, and Campylobacter are the bacteria commonly associated with the syndrome. Foodstuffs such as meat that is improperly cooked and not correctly preserved are found to be the reasons for infection. However, medical world is yet to find out why certain people when exposed to stale food get infected while others do not.

Scientists have discovered that a particular genetic factor (HLA-B27) enhances the risk of developing Reiter’s syndrome. It is concluded that eighty percent of those affected with Reiter’s syndrome are HLA-B27 positive. However, a negligible six per cent of people with out the syndrome are found to have the gene in them.

Doctors do not know exactly why some people exposed to these bacteria develop the disorder and others do not, but they have identified a genetic factor (HLA-B27) that increases a person’s chance of developing Reiter’s syndrome. About 80 percent of people with Reiter’s syndrome are HLA-B27 positive. Only 6 percent of people who do not have the syndrome have the HLA-B27 gene. This disease usually affects men between the age group twenty to forty. The syndrome also affects women but comparatively the risk is lesser than that of men. The symptoms observed in women are milder in intensity as well.


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