Reiter's syndrome has many possible symptoms, with arthritis (joint
inflammation) being an important one. There is no cure for Reiter's syndrome,
but you can control the symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
Arthritis—includes pain, swelling,
stiffness, and redness of joints. Usually occurs on one side of the body and
usually involves joints of the spine, pelvis, legs, fingers, toes, wrists, feet,
Conjuctivitis (inflammation under
eyelids)—usually brief and mild
Iritis (inflammation of the iris)—affects 5
percent of people with Reiter's and needs immediate medical treatment to avoid
Urinary tract infection—burning during
urination may or may not occur; may have pus drainage from penis
Painless, shallow ulcers on the penis
Pus-filled sores on soles, palms, and penis; mouth sores
Weight loss, malaise, morning stiffness, fever
Heart problems (rarely)
What Causes It?
Reiter's is a reactive arthritis, which means that another illness triggers
it. Scientists do not know what actually causes Reiter's. But they know that the
following factors often precede Reiter's.
HLA-B27 gene—20 percent of people who have
this gene get Reiter's; about 80 percent of people with Reiter's have the
Bacterial triggers, such as salmonella, shigella,
Sexually transmitted disease triggers, such as chlamydia
White males ages 20 to 40 are at higher
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Tell your health care provider about any intestinal conditions or sexually
transmitted diseases you have had recently. You may have a blood test to exclude
other diseases and to see if you have the HLA-B27 gene.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Sulfasalazine—a promising experimental drug
Methotrexate—an experimental drug taken
orally or by injection for chronic arthritis; frequent blood and liver tests are
Your provider may also prescribe drugs to treat specific
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Alternative therapies may be effective with fewer side effects than
Glucosamine sulfate (500 mg three times a day): stimulates cartilage
growth and may be as effective for pain relief as NSAIDs without the side
Avoid nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers,
tobacco); decrease saturated fats and alcohol (which can cause inflammation);
increase oily fish, nuts, and flaxseed (which can decrease inflammation);
increase fruits and vegetables (flavonoids).
Vitamin C (1,000 to 3,000 mg a day), vitamin E (400 to 800 IU a day),
beta-carotene (25,000 IU per day), selenium (200 mcg a day)
Essential fatty acids (2 tbsps. oil a day or 1,000 to 1,500 mg twice
a day): mix of omega-6 (evening primrose) and omega-3 (flaxseed)
Minerals: zinc (45 mg a day), copper (1 mg a day), bromelain (500 mg
three times a day) to reduce
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites
(glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise
indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep
covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots.
Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), 400 mg three times a day: helps with morning
stiffness and joint instability, works well when taken with bromelain
For urethritis: Mix three to four of these herbs in equal amounts and use 1
tsp. of mixture. Drink 1 cup tea three times a day or 30 drops tincture three
times a day. Take daily during an acute flare-up and two weeks of the month as a
Juniper (Juniperus communis): a diuretic, for inflammatory
conditions of the urinary tract; avoid if you have kidney disease.
Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi): used as an antibacterial
and anti-inflammatory for lower urinary tract; for acute cases of Reiter's
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense): soothing diuretic
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): soothing, anti-inflammatory; do
not take if you have high blood pressure.
Horsetail, licorice, meadowsweet (see dosage directions
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) and bilberry (Vaccinium
myrtillus) have been historically used for inflammation of the eyes. Drink
30 to 60 drops tincture three times a day, or 1 cup tea three times per day, or
use tea to make compresses for acute relief: soak a cotton ball or cloth in a
cooled tea and place over the eyes.
As with other forms of arthritis, acupuncture may be effective at stimulating
the immune system and reducing
The initial attack usually lasts three to six months. Most people maintain
near-normal lifestyles with physical and occupational
Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset, England: Grace
Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, et al., eds. PDR for Herbal
Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998.
Koopman WJ, ed. Arthritis and Allied Conditions. 13th ed. Baltimore,
Md: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 1996.
Murray MT, Pizzorno JE. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. 2nd ed.
Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1998.
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Constance Grauds, RPh, President,
Association of Natural Medicine Pharmacists, San Rafael, CA; Anne McClenon, ND,
Compass Family Health Center, Plymouth, MA; Marc Micozzi, MD, PhD, College of
Physicians, Philadelphia, PA; Elizabeth Wotton, ND, private practice, Sausalito,
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of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage
to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or
otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents
of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds
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guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information
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regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed