What Is the Prognosis for People Who Have Reactive Arthritis?
Most people with reactive arthritis recover fully from the initial flare of symptoms and are able to return to regular activities 2 to 6 months after the first symptoms appear. In some cases, the symptoms of arthritis may last up to 12 months, although these symptoms are usually very mild and do not interfere with daily activities. Approximately 20% of people with reactive arthritis will have chronic (long-term) arthritis, which usually is mild.
Studies show that between 15% and 50% of patients will develop symptoms again sometime after the initial flare has disappeared. [15, 21] Back pain and arthritis are the symptoms that most commonly reappear. Up to one-third of affected individuals will have chronic, severe arthritis that is difficult to control with treatment and may cause joint deformity. [13, 24, 21, 15] One study found that two-thirds of individuals who developed reactive arthritis after a Salmonella infection continued to have symptoms at five years of follow-up.  Symptoms were severe enough to force a change in work for four of 18 individuals and another four had objective damage to joints radiographically.
Overall, a relapsing course appears less common in enteric-infection-related disease than in Chlamydia-associated reactive arthritis (of genitourinary origin). HLA-B27 contributes to the development of chronic disease and therefore, the prognosis is less favorable in those who are HLA-positive. [1, 24]