IRRITABLE BOWEL DISEASE / CROHN’S DISEASE
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis: A gut connection with arthritis?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) wreaks havoc in the gastrointestinal tract. In Crohn’s disease, one form of IBD, the lining of the small and large intestines becomes inflamed and highly irritated. In ulcerative colitis, inflammation and sores develop in the inner lining of the large intestine, and sometimes, in the rectum. Both can imprison someone with chronic and uncomfortable symptoms that can come and go unexpectedly.
The gut to joint connection
Most of the body’s immune system lives in the gut. Scientists now hypothesize that chronic inflammation in the digestive tract may damage the immune system, and cause it to launch an inappropriate inflammatory response in the spine or joints. The resulting diseases are called IBD-associated arthritis which develop with, or after, a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.*
What are the symptoms of IBD and IBD-associated arthritis?
Symptoms of IBD include diarrhea, stomach pain, fatigue and weight loss that do not resolve in a few weeks. IBD-related arthritis can start as mild low back or spinal pain. Knee pain, discomfort in the hips, shoulders, and some cases, the heel, knee, buttocks, and foot* are also common.
How is IBD-associated arthritis treated?
The most important way to get IBD-related arthritis under control is to treat someone’s Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Commonly prescribed medications for IBD include corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, methotrexate to modify disease symptoms, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) antagonists to fight the protein that causes inflammation. Sometimes surgery for IBD is needed depending on the severity of damage to the GI tract.
Concurrent treatment for IBD-related arthritis includes exercise and when warranted, physical therapy. Good nutrition and a creating a healthy lifestyle are measures someone can take to improve their physical and mental well-being.
That said, IBD-related arthritis left untreated or inappropriately treated, can cause permanent joint damage. Joint replacement surgery or other forms of joint surgery may be needed to restore function.