Inflammatory Bowel Disease And Arthritis

September 2021

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

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. 

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).

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.

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



  • 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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