Contaminated Peanut Butter Can Cause Reiter’s Syndrome
On March 1, 2007, U.S. health officials discovered that a bacteria linked to contaminated peanut butter that sickened hundreds of people has been traced to a plant owned by ConAgra Foods Inc. where it was made. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it discovered the salmonella bacteria during an inspection of the now shut down plant in Sylvester, Georgia that made Peter Pan brand peanut butter and the Great Value brand sold by Wal-Mart Inc. The bacteria infection can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever. While it can usually be treated with antibiotics and hydration, it can cause a small number of people to develop Reiter’s syndrome that leads to painful joints and urination complications.
What Is Reiter’s Syndrome?
Reiter’s syndrome is an ailment that causes three seemingly unrelated symptoms: arthritis, redness of the eyes, and urinary tract signs. Physicians at times refer to Reiter’s syndrome as a seronegative spondyloarthropathy because it is one of a group of disorders that cause inflammation throughout the body, mostly in parts of the spine and at other joints where tendons attach to bones. Examples of other seronegative spondyloarthropathies consist of psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and inflammatory bowel syndrome arthritis. Inflammation is a characteristic reaction of tissues to injury or disease and is marked by four signs: swelling, redness, heat, and pain.
Reactive arthritis is another name for Reiter’s syndrome, because the arthritis occurs as a reaction to an infection that started somewhere else in the body. In many patients, the infection begins in the genitourinary tract (bladder, urethra, penis, or vagina). The infection is frequently passed from one person to another via sexual intercourse. This form of the disorder is at times called genitourinary or urogenital Reiter’s syndrome. Another form of the disorder, called enteric or gastrointestinal Reiter’s syndrome, develops when an individual eats food or handles substances that are contaminated with bacteria.
Causes of Reiter’s Syndrome
When a preceding infection is identified, symptoms of Reiter’s syndrome appear approximately 1 to 3 weeks after the infection. Chlamydia trachomatis is the bacteria most often linked with Reiter’s syndrome acquired through sexual contact. Several different bacteria are associated with Reiter’s syndrome, which are acquired through the digestive tract, including Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, and Campylobacter. People can become infected with these bacteria after eating or handling improperly prepared food, such as meats that are not stored at the correct temperature.
People at Risk & Symptoms
Men between the ages of 20 and 40 are most likely to develop Reiter’s syndrome. It is the most common form of arthritis affecting young men. Among men under age 50, an estimated 3.5 per 100,000 develop Reiter’s syndrome annually. 3% of all men with a sexually transmitted disease develop Reiter’s syndrome. Additionally, women may also develop the disorder. Symptoms of Reiter’s syndrome can affect numerous parts of the body, but most typically affect the urogenital tract, the joints, and the eyes. Less common symptoms are mouth ulcers, skin rashes, and heart-valve problems. The signs may be so mild that patients do not notice them. They usually come and go over a period of several weeks to several months.
Urogenital Tract Symptoms
Reiter’s syndrome frequently affects the urogenital tract, including the prostate, urethra, and penis in men and the fallopian tubes, uterus, and vagina in women. Men may encounter an increased need to urinate, a burning sensation when urinating, and a discharge from the penis. Some men with Reiter’s syndrome develop prostatitis, inflammation of the prostate gland. Symptoms of prostatitis can include fever, chills, increased need to urinate, and a burning sensation when urinating. Women with Reiter’s syndrome also develop signs in the urogenital tract, such as inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis) or inflammation of the urethra (urethritis), which can cause a burning sensation during urination. In addition, some women also develop salpingitis (inflammation of the fallopian tubes) or vulvovaginitis (inflammation of the vulva and vagina). These conditions may or may not cause any symptoms.
Joint Symptoms or Arthritis
Arthritis associated with Reiter’s syndrome usually affects the knees, ankles, and feet, causing pain and swelling. Wrists, fingers, and other joints are less often affected. Patients with Reiter’s syndrome commonly develop inflammation where the tendon attaches to the bone, a condition called enthesopathy. Enthesopathy may result in heel pain and the shortening and thickening of fingers and toes. Some people with Reiter’s syndrome also develop heel spurs, bony growths in the heel that cause chronic or long-lasting foot pain.
Arthritis associated with Reiter’s syndrome can also affect the joints in the back and cause spondylitis (inflammation of the vertebrae in the spinal column) or sacroiliitis, inflammation of the joints in the lower back that connect the spine to the pelvis.
Conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the mucous membrane that covers the eyeball and eyelid, develops in
roughly 50% of people with urogenital Reiter’s syndrome and 75% of people with enteric Reiter’s syndrome. A few people may develop uveitis, an inflammation of the inner eye. Conjunctivitis and uveitis can cause redness of the eyes, eye pain and irritation, and blurred vision. Eye involvement typically occurs early in the course of Reiter’s syndrome, and symptoms may come and go.
An estimated 20% to 40% of men with Reiter’s syndrome develop small, shallow, painless sores or lesions, called balanitis circinata, on the end of the penis. A small percentage of men and women develop rashes of small hard nodules on the soles of the feet, and less often on the palms of the hands or elsewhere. These rashes are called keratoderma blennorrhagica. Additionally, some people with Reiter’s syndrome develop mouth ulcers that come and go. In some cases, these ulcers are painless and go unnoticed.
About 10% of people with Reiter’s syndrome, usually those with prolonged disease, develop heart problems including aortic regurgitation (leakage of blood from the aorta into the heart chamber) and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane that covers and protects the heart).
Legal Help For Victims Affected By Reiter’s Syndrome
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Reiter’s syndrome and you’ve suffered serious health ailments, please fill out the form at the right for a free case evaluation by a qualified attorney. If you prefer to call Parker & Waichman, LLP, call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) 24 hours per day.