Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune digestive disorder, is a risk factor for arthritis and joint pain. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to two disorders: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In both conditions inflammation of the intestines occurs as the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells in the digestive tract, thus making them autoimmune diseases as well.
Arthritis has been seen in individuals with IBD, similar to that of rheumatoid arthritis – an autoimmune disease arthritis. It is important to note, though, that there are differences between IBD arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
In IBD arthritis only a few, larger joints become affected on one side of the body, while rheumatoid arthritis can affect both sides of the body and often affects smaller joints, like the ones found in the hands. Additionally, antibodies are found in the blood of those with rheumatoid arthritis but not in those with IBD arthritis.
Peripheral arthritis: Affects hands, wrists, elbows, knees and feet. This form of arthritis does not cause damage to cartilage or bone.
Axial arthritis: Affects the spine, back and hips, and can begin even before symptoms of Crohn’s are present. This form of arthritis can lead to bone damage.
Ankylosing spondylitis: Severe spinal arthritis, which can contribute to inflammation of the heart valves, lungs and eyes.
Although arthritis is linked to Crohn’s, arthritic joint pain may also occur due to medication side effects as well. Therefore, speaking to your doctor when symptoms present themselves can narrow down what the true cause is.
Common symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:
Aside from those listed, joint pain can also be a symptom of Crohn’s disease, especially if arthritis is present. The main difference between arthritis and Crohn’s arthritis is that Crohn’s arthritis often does not cause damage like other forms of arthritis. Furthermore, if Crohn’s disease is well managed and treated, then the joint pain will subside as well. Lastly, in some cases, joint pain can be present prior to a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, and thus can be an early indicator of the disease.
If joint pain does linger even after Crohn’s disease is in remission, then other therapies may be utilized in order to control and better manage the pain.
Arthritis symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease include swelling and stiffening of the joints. Symptoms can vary over time, worsening some days and mild on others, but more often than not joint pain in Crohn’s is largely associated with Crohn’s disease flare-ups.
The most common complaint is lower back pain, which is at its worst in the morning. Exercise has been found to improve such pain and improve range of motion.
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but treatment can help better manage symptoms and allow for normal function in daily activities. Treatment involves the use of anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids. Other treatments involve immune suppressants, which work to reduce inflammation by targeting the immune system, which sets off the inflammatory response.
Lastly, other medications like antibiotics, pain relievers, iron supplements, antidiarrheal, vitamin B12 shots and other nutritional supplements are used to help boost health overall because absorption of nutrients may become limited, depending on inflammation and the damage caused by Crohn’s disease.