Reiters Syndrome


Reiters Syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by arthritis, inflammation of the urinary tract (nongonococcal urethritis), inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the eyes (conjunctivitis), and inflammation of the front part of the eye (iritis, uveitis). Painful and swollen joints occur because of an underlying infection (reactive arthritis). Sores (lesions) may also occur on the skin and the mucous membranes of the mouth. In many cases, Reiters Syndrome is transmitted through sexual contact (venereal). However occasionally there is an underlying infection of the small bowel (enteric) which may contribute to the onset of Reiters Syndrome. All the symptoms of the disease may not appear at once, and they may also disappear and then recur. The symptoms subside spontaneously within the first year in the majority of individuals.


  • Urinary urgency, burning or stinging
  • Urethral discharge
  • Redness of the eye
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Burning eye pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Joint pain in the large joints (hip pain, knee pain, and ankle pain are common)
  • Low back pain
  • Heel pain
  • Achilles tendon pain
  • Skin lesions on the palms and soles that may resemble psoriasis

The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have Reiters Syndrome. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a complete exam.


The objective of Reiters Syndrome treatment is to alleviate the symptoms associated with the syndrome and to treat any underlying infection. If the conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria, it is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops and/or ointment. Other infectious forms, caused by viruses, can't be treated with antibiotics. They must be fought off by your body's immune system. But some antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent secondary bacterial infections from developing.

The arthritis is treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) and pain relievers (analgesics). These medications are tolerated better when they are taken with food. Local administration of corticosteroids may help relieve the symptoms associated with uveitis and with persistent joint inflammation. In severe cases, other immunosuppressive therapy may be necessary.

Physical therapy exercises for specifically involved areas and the back are helpful in relieving pain, maintaining mobility of the affected joints, and maintaining muscular strength. Adjustments in occupational tasks may be required if lifting or strenuous use of the back is required.

Clinic Information

For more information, see the Cornea & External Disease, Cataract & Refractive Surgery Clinic and the complete Clinic Services listing of the U-M Kellogg Eye Center.

Last Modified: Thursday, 13-Feb-2014 10:55:36 EST