One-fifth of patients with IBD have arthritis, which complicates Crohn disease somewhat more frequently than it does ulcerative colitis.

In both diseases, two distinct forms of arthritis occur.

  • The first is peripheral arthritisβ€”usually a nondeforming asymmetric oligoarthritis of large jointsβ€”in which the activity of the joint disease parallels that of the bowel disease. The arthritis usually begins months to years after the bowel disease, but occasionally the joint symptoms develop earlier and may be prominent enough to cause the patient to overlook intestinal symptoms.
  • The second form of arthritis is a spondylitis that is indistinguishable by symptoms or radiographs from ankylosing spondylitis and follows a course independent of the bowel disease.

About 50% of these patients are HLA-B27 positive.

Controlling the intestinal inflammation usually eliminates the peripheral arthritis.

NSAIDs can be effective when the arthritis is mild but must be used cautiously since they can exacerbate IBD.

TNF inhibitors are useful therapies because they are effective for both the bowel and joints.

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