Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Living with UC can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and increased abdominal sounds. Other symptoms may include fever, weight loss, rectal pain, and bloody stools. But research findings now suggest that UC patients have a higher risk of experiencing swollen joints and joint pain.
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation estimates that 25 percent of patients with inflammatory bowel diseases have arthritis symptoms. Researchers suggest that joint pain experienced in UC may differ from pain among those without an IBD and it may involve different treatment options.
Two types of joint pain may affect UC patients: arthralgia, which is joint pain on its own, or arthritis, which involves pain, inflammation, swelling, and redness.
UC patients may experience arthritis at a younger age than those without IBD and may also have different experiences.
Joint pain often rises with UC flare-ups and diminishes during times or remission.
UC patients may experience peripheral arthritis, which is a type of arthritis that affects certain parts of the body including the arms, legs, elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles. Patients may also experience axial arthritis, which is a pain in the lower spine or sacroiliac joints. This can lead to spinal fusion, which can reduce a person’s range of motion.
Lastly, UC patients are at a higher risk for ankylosing spondylitis, which is a severe type of arthritis and a rarer complication of IBD. Rates of ankylosing spondylitis are higher among Crohn’s patients than ulcerative colitis patients. Ankylosing spondylitis causes inflammation in the spine and sacroiliac joints and may also affect the lungs, eyes, and heart valves.
To better manage joint pain and inflammation in ulcerative colitis, it’s important that patients also seek treatment from a rheumatologist. Those who do not have UC can use over the counter pain killers, but this is not advised for UC patients as they can irritate the intestines.
Instead, treatment typically involves steroids, immune-suppressing drugs, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, and biologic drugs.
Home remedies may also offer some relief for inflammation and pain, such as the use of heat pads, warm compresses, stretching, icing painful areas, and alleviating affected joints.
To reduce your risk of joint pain, ensure you are adhering to all the treatments in which your doctor has laid out for you along with living as healthy as a lifestyle as possible.
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