About 15 percent of people who have inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis also have enteropathic arthritis, which is linked with gastrointestinal inflammation, says Themistocles Dassopoulos, MD, medical director of the Baylor Scott & White Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases at Baylor University Medical Center.
There are two major types of enteropathic arthritis:
- Peripheral arthritis generally affects large peripheral joints, such as elbows, shoulders, knees and ankles. Unlike osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, this arthritis doesn’t lead to joint deformities, but it can cause severe joint pain, swelling and redness.
- Central arthritis affects the spine and the sacroiliac joints—between the base of the spine and the pelvis—and can lead to spinal fusion.
Because non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin and ibuprofen) can worsen the bowel inflammation, acetaminophen is a better choice for joint pain relief.
Several new medications can treat both the bowel disease and the associated arthritis, says Steve Appleton, MD, an orthopedic joint surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center.
Along with arthritis, the inflammatory bowel diseases are linked with autoimmune conditions of organs such as the eyes, liver and skin.