What are the signs and symptoms of urethritis in patients with reactive arthritis (ReA)?

Updated: Dec 24, 2020
  • Author: Carlos J Lozada, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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An estimated 0.5-1% of cases of urethritis evolve into ReA. Urethritis develops acutely 1-2 weeks after infection through sexual contact and is similar to gonococcal urethritis. A purulent or hemopurulent exudate appears, and the patient complains of dysuria.

In men, chlamydial urethritis is less painful and produces less purulent discharge than acute gonorrhea does, making it difficult to notice. Findings from microscopic examination and cultures can be used to rule out Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection. Coinfection with Chlamydia and Neisseria organisms is common in some areas. In women, urethritis and cervicitis may be mild, with dysuria or slight vaginal discharge, or asymptomatic, which makes diagnosis difficult.

Often, the initial urethritis is treated with antibiotics (especially wide-spectrum tetracyclines or macrolides) when findings suggest gonorrhea. Despite an apparent early cure, the manifestations of the disease appear several weeks later, and the patient may not relate them to a previous episode of urethritis.

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