Inflammatory Bowel Disease And Arthritis

Updated March 2024

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and arthritis are two distinct conditions, but they often go hand in hand. Many people with IBD also experience arthritis symptoms, creating a complex health challenge.

In this article, we'll explore the link between IBD and arthritis, how they affect each other, and potential treatment options.

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term used to describe Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.   These conditions are caused from chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (GI) which includes the small intestine, the large intestine and the rectum. 

These conditions cause inflammation and damage to the GI tract, leading to symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, and weight loss.

The link between IBD and arthritis

As IBD is an autoimmune disease, it has a lot in common with other autoimmune disorders – such as rheumatoid arthritis (which affects the joints), psoriasis (which affects the skin) and lupus (which affects the connective tissue). 

There are many different types of arthritis, but the two most common types associated with IBD are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and spondyloarthritis (SpA).

The long-lasting inflammation of the GI tract damages the bowel, allowing bacteria to enter the blood stream. The body’s reaction to the bacteria can also cause inflammation in other parts of the body, such as the joints.

About 1 in 10 people with IBD may develop enteropathic arthritis, a type of spondyloarthritis which occurs from inflammation of the spine. Read our handy information sheet on Spondyloarthritis to learn more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.

Therefore, IBD may cause an increased risk of developing inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

Types of Arthritis Associated with IBD:

#1. Peripheral Arthritis: This type of arthritis affects the joints in the arms and legs, causing symptoms similar to rheumatoid arthritis, such as joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.

#2. Axial Arthritis: Axial arthritis primarily affects the spine and pelvic joints, leading to symptoms such as lower back pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving.

#3. Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS): AS is a specific type of axial arthritis that primarily affects the spine and sacroiliac joints. It can cause stiffness and fusion of the spine, leading to a stooped posture and reduced mobility.

Symptoms of IBD

People living with IBD most commonly experience:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue


Diagnosis can be done based on your signs and symptoms, medical history and a physical exam.

Depending on the type of IBD, your doctor may perform an endoscopy (for Crohn's disease) or colonoscopy (for ulcerative colitis). Other tests, such as imaging and blood tests, may also be conducted.

It is always recommended that you consult your doctor for advice and information on the type of tests which may be needed for your symptoms.   

Treatment options

Treatment will depend on the type of IBD and the organs affected. This may be through a range of medications dependent on the severity of the condition.

You should talk to your doctor for advice on the type of medication which may be prescribed for you. Your doctor may prescribe you anti-inflammatory drugs depending on your symptoms. Always talk to your doctor to discuss any possible side effects, and risks and benefits. 

Many of the symptoms experienced in IBD can be managed through following a healthy diet as well as participating in regular physical activity.

It is also important to build a support network of friends and family. You can learn more about our Online Support Groups here, or speak to one of our peer-mentors in our Arthritis Assist service here.

Living with both IBD and arthritis can be challenging, but with proper management and treatment, people can achieve symptom relief and improve their quality of life.

By understanding the connection between these conditions and working closely with healthcare providers, people can develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to their unique needs and goals.

How Arthritis Queensland can help


Always talk to your doctor and/or health professional before starting an exercise program. A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can suggest safe exercises and make sure you are doing your exercises correctly.


  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Arthritis Foundation.
  • If you have IBD or type 1 diabetes, you’re more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis: Creaky Joints
  • Crohn's and Colitis:
  • Spondyloarthritis Information sheet

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