Enteropathic arthritis

A group of inflammatory spondyloarthropathies associated with inflammatory bowel disease and to reactive arthritis following a infectious gastroenteritis/colitis.


  • Around 10-20% of patients with IBD (Particularly Crohn’s, but also in ulcerative colitis) will have some symptoms of peripheral arthritis
  • Typically, the age of onset is young adult (15-30 years) and it can precede the onset of bowel symptoms
  • Although the mechanism is not fully understood, as with UC and other spondyloarthropathies, there is a strong association with the HLA-B27 allele.  It is likely that the pathophysiology is similar to that of other seronegative arthropathies and IBD


  • Axial disease- spondylitis and sacroiliitis (more common of IBD)
    • Insidious onset- lower back pain radiating to the buttocks (often alternating)
    • Often worse at rest, during periods of standing/sitting; better with exercise
      • may waken the patient from sleep
    • Usually independent of GI symptoms
  • Peripheral disease
    • Usually an asymmetrical, oligoarticular arthritis of the lower limbs (usually transient, episodic)
    • Can progress to involve more joints or even present as a more chronic polyarticular arthritis affecting hands also (type II)
    • Enthesitis/tenosinovitis is also common (e.g. achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis)
    • NB Symptom severity of peripheral arthritis tends to correlate with the severity of associated IBD i.e. during a flare of IBD, arthritis will worsen too
  • Extra-articular features
    • Symptoms of associated IBD
    • Skin manifestations- pyoderma gangrenosum (UC) and erythema nodosum (CD)
    • Anterior uveitis
  • Constitutional features e.g. mild fever, weight loss, malaise etc


  • Aside from investigations for IBD/gastroenteritis etc
  • Inflammatory markers may be elevated
  • Joint aspiration (if indicated) usually show inflammatory cells but is negative for culture/crystals
  • Imaging of the joints (particularly the sacrum) may be useful in evaluating the severity of joint disease.


  • NSAIDs should be given cautiously for symptomatic relief (may worsen GI symptoms- useful to ask patient if they have had problems in the past)
    • Intra-articular steroid injection may be useful 2nd line
  • Management of associated IBD may improve peripheral arthritis (not usually axial arthritis)
  • Sulfasalazine is generally the DMARD of choice as it will treat both symptoms of arthritis and IBD
    • Others may be used (e.g. methotrexate, azathioprine, ciclosporin)
    • Biologic agents (TNF-modulators- infliximab/adalimumab) can also be used in IBD patients who have not responded to conventional therapy

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