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Food poisoning is hardly a walk in the park, but add the possibility of developing a secondary inflammatory condition, and suddenly it’s metastasized into something much, much worse. That has happened for thousands who suffer from a condition called Reactive Arthritis (formerly known as Reiter’s Syndrome).

If you’ve developed Reactive Arthritis as a result of ingesting contaminated food, know that you can pursue legal recourse. OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers have helped thousands of food poisoning victims get the compensation they deserve.

What Is Reactive Arthritis?

Reactive Arthritis is a unique type of arthritis that may affect people who ingest a foodborne pathogen, like salmonella, shigella, or E. coli. Reactive Arthritis inflames the joints, and can be either monoarticular (i.e., affects one joint) or oligoarticular (i.e., affects a number of joints). Even though Reactive Arthritis normally affects joints on the lower half of the body, it’s not unheard of for it to affect joints in the arms or back, either.

Symptoms of Reactive Arthritis

Symptoms generally start appearing one to four weeks after ingesting the contaminated food. Although symptoms vary from person to person, there’s several common symptoms you should keep an eye out for if you fear you may have eaten tainted food:

  • Pain and stiffness – Arthritis is marked by stiff, painful joints, and Reactive Arthritis is no exception; as mentioned above, this type of arthritis usually affects the knees, feet, and ankles.
  • Lower back pain – You may also feel pain and stiffness in the lower back, as well as the buttocks and heels. This pain is usually worse either in the morning or at night.
  • Swollen fingers and toes – Like rheumatoid arthritis, your finger and toe joints may swell considerably and be painful to move or bend.
  • Eye inflammation – It’s not uncommon for Reactive Arthritis sufferers to develop conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the eye.
  • Urinary problems – Reactive Arthritis also affects the bladder, urethra, cervix, and prostate, making for painful urination that feels similar to a urinary tract infection (UTI).
  • Inflammation of soft tissue that enters bone – Also known as enthesitis, Reactive Arthritis can cause tendons, ligaments, and muscles that connect directly to the bone to flare up.
  • Skin problems – Those with sensitive skin may discover that Reactive Arthritis causes mouth sores or rashes on the palms or soles of your feet to develop.

Foodborne pathogens aren’t the only culprit here; some sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), like gonorrhea and chlamydia, can also trigger Reactive Arthritis. Fortunately, this disease is not contagious.

Additional Health Issues

Those who suffer from Reactive Arthritis may also develop some more serious and chronic health issues, like backward flow of blood in the heart, heart palpitations, chest pains, fainting spells, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and excessive sweating. For these complications, doctors may prescribe diuretics or ACE inhibitor drugs to alleviate the symptoms.

Fortunately, though, these additional complications are quite rare, and most people with Reactive Arthritis do not develop them.

Risk Factors

There are a few risk factors to keep in mind regarding Reactive Arthritis:

  • Sex – While both men and women are equally as likely to develop Reactive Arthritis as a result of ingesting contaminated food, men are more likely to develop it as a result of an STI.
  • Age – The onset of Reactive Arthritis typically happens between ages 20 and 40.
  • Genetics – Specific genetic markers have been linked to Reactive Arthritis, but the presence of the marker itself does not necessarily mean you’ll develop Reactive Arthritis if you ingest any pathogens that trigger it. However, your chances of developing it may increase if one of your family members has the disease.


There’s no specific test that checks for Reactive Arthritis, so a doctor will conduct a physical exam after inquiring about your symptoms and medical history. Doctors will also usually test your tissues and bodily fluids by administering a blood test, gram stain, culture, or by taking a liquid biopsy from one of the affected joints.

Some doctors also X-ray their patients to examine the condition of their bodily structures.


While there’s no cure for Reactive Arthritis, most people who suffer from it will make a full recovery within a year. However, some continue to suffer from symptoms for years, or at the very least, develop a milder, chronic form of arthritis. That being said, any kind of treatment is merely to alleviate the symptoms, and do not attack the root of the problem itself.

Doctors recommend sitting or lying down to rest if you start experiencing joint pain and stiffness. Since this disease makes your joints so vulnerable, it’s also a good idea to wear knee braces or other supportive devices that will help take some of the strain off of your joints. Occupational therapy can help you manage the pain by teaching you new ways to take it easy on your body when performing daily activities.

There are also a few prescription drugs that can help ease symptoms, like NSAIDs (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.), eye drops, steroid injections, topical steroid creams, immunosuppressant medications, and antibiotics that treat the pathogenic infection.

As for preventative measures, your best bet is only eat foods that have been stored, prepared, and cooked properly. Don’t forget to wash your hands before handling or eating food, either.

How OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers Can Help You

Developing a chronic illness is devastating, especially when you weren’t the one at fault. Not only do you suddenly have to contend with bodily pain and mounting medical bills, but you’ll also have to navigate a tricky legal process in order to get rightfully compensated.

Fortunately, OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers are here to help you every step of the way. Our team of seasoned, empathetic lawyers have the legal know-how and courtroom experience to help you receive the restitution you deserve. Call us today at (888) 828-7087 to learn more about how we can best serve you.