It may seem odd to people suffering from ulcerative colitis to develop arthritis and not wonder whether the two diseases are connected somehow. Apparently, a connection between the two diseases actually exists.
Dr. Filip Van den Bosch, rheumatology head of clinic at the Universtity of Ghent Hospital says that arthritis is considered to be a complication of ulcerative colitis, which is a type of inflammatory bowel disease.
Patient suffering from Crohn’s disease can also develop this specific type of arthritis. The Crhon’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) consider that almost 25% of the patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease are also affected by arthritis.
The Arthritis Foundation states that ulcerative colitis causes chronic inflammation and lesions in the intestinal tract and rectum which can have a very negative impact on your overall health.
Ulcerative Colitis is normally characterized by symptoms such as weight loss, severe diarrhea, stomach pain and fatigue. The first symptoms that appear when developing arthritis caused by Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis is soreness in the low back and joint stiffness which can be felt more severely when waking up.
According to the CCFA there are three types of arthritis that can affect patients with ulcerative colitis. These three types of arthritis are peripheral arthritis, axial arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
The three types of arthritis differ depending on the areas of the body they affect and their sverity. Of all the three, ankylosing spondylitis is the most severe spinal arthritis which develops in patients suffering from Crohn’s disease more often than in patients with ulcerative colitis.
It is hard for physicians to diagnose whether the patients are suffering from arthritis caused by inflammatory bowel disease. What makes it so difficult is the fact that the symptoms of this type of arthritis are less severe than those of rheumatoid arthritis, the joints suffering less damage.
Many patients suffering from arthritis choose to treat the disease with over-the-counter medicine such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or naproxen. Unfortunately, these drugs are not recommended for ulcerative colitis patients due to the fact that NSAIDs can worsen the disease by causing further gastrointestinal upset and more frequent flare-ups of inflammatory bowel disease.
A safe option for treating both diseases is corticosteroids because they can help you control the inflammation in the joints and the inflammation in the intestines at the same time. Arthritis pain tends to wear off after you’ve managed to keep under control ulcerative colitis.
The Arthritis Foundation considers that physical therapy is an essential part of treating arthritis pain and for improving range of motion. It is also recommended that you make lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and doing exercises in order to deal with the disease.