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Robert Peston health: BBC presenter explains ‘reactive arthritis’ symptoms – common signs

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When journalist Robert Peston, 57, was diagnosed with reactive arthritis, he realised it was time for him to “stop”. The condition left him “weak” for a period, he said, and forced him to take six weeks away from work.

Reactive arthritis is joint pain and swelling most often triggered by an infection in another part of the body.

In the majority of cases, the pain targets knees and the joints of the ankles and feet.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Mr Peston said: “They diagnosed reactive arthritis.

“All my joints swelled up and I was very weak for a period. I took about six weeks off, but fortunately, I have made a full recovery. I think my body was just saying, “Stop! You have to be kinder to yourself.”

The news came not long after he lost his wife to cancer.

Mr Peston added: “I think I did have post-traumatic stress for a period. I was in shock. It took me a while to get through it.’

Men and women of any age can be impacted by reactive arthritis.

What symptoms should you look out for? explores the key warning signs.

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What is reactive arthritis?

Before delving into the signs and symptoms of reactive arthritis, it is important to understand a little bit about the condition.

The NHS describes reactive arthritis as “a condition that causes redness and swelling (inflammation) in various joints in the body, especially the knees, feet, toes, hips and ankles”.

People may also develop reactive arthritis if they, or someone close to them, has recently had glandular fever or slapped cheek syndrome.

The NHS states: “The body’s immune system seems to overreact to the infection and starts attacking healthy tissue, causing it to become inflamed. But the exact reason for this is unknown.”

Men and women of any age can be susceptible to it, but reactive arthritis is more common in men and people aged between 20 and 40.

The NHS adds: “It usually develops after you’ve had an infection, particularly a sexually transmitted infection or food poisoning.

“In most cases, it clears up within a few months and causes no long-term problems.”

What are the main symptoms of reactive arthritis?

The most common symptom of reactive arthritis is pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints and tendons, most commonly the knees, feet, toes, hips and ankles.

According to the NHS, in some people, it can also affect their genital tract or eyes.

People may feel pain when urinating, or experience discharge from the genitalia.

If the infection impacts the eye, patients commonly report eye pain, redness, sticky discharge, conjunctivitis and, rarely, inflammation of the eye.

People who experience pain in the eye or misty vision are advised to “see an eye specialist or go to A&E as soon as possible”.

Most people will not get all of the symptoms associated with reactive arthritis, but they can come on suddenly.

How is reactive arthritis treated?

In the event you develop any symptoms of reactive arthritis, it is advised you see a GP as soon as possible.

There is no specific test for reactive arthritis, though blood tests, genital swabs, ultrasound scans and X-rays can all be used to rule out other causes.

Your GP will also likely ask some questions about your recent medical history in order to conclude whether the symptoms are the result of an infection.

Treatment most often includes painkillers to relieve joint pain and stiffness.

Steroids or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may be used to manage severe or ongoing arthritis.

The condition tends to clear up anywhere between three and six months, and typically last no more than 12 months at the most.

Robert Peston’s political magazine show is on ITV at 10.45pm this evening.

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