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Diseases > Enteropathic Arthritis > What is it going to do to me?

Enteropathic arthritis can be very different from one person to another. The symptoms of enteropathic arthritis depend on how the disease presents in each person.

The most common form of the disease causes arthralgia or aches all over the body. There is no inflammation or swollen joints, but it can be very debilitating. This presentation can be similar to a disease called fibromyalgia. In this case, the joint and muscle pain may be secondary to unrecognized IBD. The achiness can improve if the bowel disease is adequately treated.

Another presentation of enteropathic arthritis causes inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joints (the joints between the spine and the pelvis). This causes a stiff, sore back that can be debilitating. This can look a lot like ankylosing spondylitis (AS). While most people with AS have the HLA-B27 gene, only about half of people with enteropathic arthritis carry the gene. In this type of enteropathic arthritis, adequate control of the IBD may not improve the joint inflammation.

Enteropathic arthritis can also affect the peripheral (limb) joints in the lower body (ankles, knees, hips) and occasionally the wrists and elbows. This presentation can cause acute (quick onset) pain and joints that flare. Flares of joint pain often happen around the same time the bowel disease flares.

Sometimes, there can be more chronic (long-term) peripheral arthritis that affects multiple joints including the knees, ankles, elbows, shoulders, wrists or knuckles. This is the least common type of enteropathic arthritis.

Work and enteropathic arthritis

Your ability to work will depend on the severity of your arthritis and bowel disease. The aches, back pain and joint problems common with enteropathic arthritis can be quite debilitating. This can significantly interfere with your ability to work. You may need some time off.

If your symptoms are manageable, you may be able to continue working. Luckily there are things you can do to lessen the impact on your work and daily routine. If you have a job where you sit for much of the day, adjusting features of your workplace can help make working easier. For example, adjusting the position of chairs and desks for proper posture can help. You can also make adjustments to the seat of your vehicle to make driving more comfortable.

Travel and enteropathic arthritis

Traveling is possible when you have enteropathic arthritis, if you feel up to it. If you tend to have flares, you need to be prepared and pack extra medication. Before going on any trip, always check with your doctor. See our travel checklist for extra tips.

Sex and enteropathic arthritis

Enteropathic arthritis can sometimes affect sex drive and your desire for intimacy. The aches and pain caused by the disease can be debilitating and make sex difficult. Bowel disease can also affect intimacy. This can create barriers to sexual needs, ability and satisfaction. Take comfort knowing that sex and intimacy can be maintained in people with enteropathic arthritis … it can even draw partners closer together through improved communication. For more information on intimacy, a great book is Rheumatoid Arthritis: Plan to Win by Sheryl Koehn, Taysha Palmer and John Esdaile. Many of the tips in this book can also be applied to people with enteropathic arthritis.

Pregnancy and enteropathic arthritis

Enteropathic arthritis does not affect your ability to become pregnant. Some medications used to treat enteropathic arthritis should not be taken when trying to get pregnant or while breastfeeding. If you have this disease and want to get pregnant it is very important to discuss this first with your doctor. Your doctor can help you control your enteropathic arthritis while you try to get pregnant and during your pregnancy.

Read more – What can I do about it?