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Crohns Disease-Related Arthritis

What is Crohn’s Disease-Related Arthritis?

Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by inflammation in the digestive system. This is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect other parts of the body including the joints resulting in rheumatoid arthritis.

Causes of Crohn’s Disease

Causes of Crohn’s disease include:

  • Medications: Certain medications such as corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)s cause serious side effects.
  • Infection: Certain bacterial infections can destroy the stomach lining.
  • Other conditions: The condition can be triggered by other conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease and stomach pain.
  • Autoimmune disease: Certain bacteria in the digestive system can destroy healthy cells.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Those with certain genetic abnormalities may have a higher likelihood of developing Crohn’s disease-related arthritis.

Classification of Crohn’s Disease-Related Arthritis

Arthritis related to Crohn’s disease differs from regular arthritis as it develops at a young age. Some of the most common types of Crohn’s disease-related arthritis include:

  • Peripheral arthritis: This is the most common type of arthritis present in people with Crohn’s disease. This affects the large joints such as the elbows, wrists, ankles, hips, and knees on one side of the body. The joint pain is accompanied by stomach and bowel inflammation.
  • Symmetrical Arthritis:  This type of polyarthritis affects the same joints on either side of the body, most commonly the hand joints.
  • Axial Arthritis: This condition causes pain and stiffness in the lower spine, limiting motion and causing potentially permanent spine damage.
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis: This is a severe inflammatory condition that affects the spine and sacroiliac joint, causing pain and stiffness.

Diagnosing Crohn’s Disease-Related Arthritis

There is no specific test to confirm the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease-related arthritis. Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and based on this a physical examination will be performed. Diagnostic tests can include the following:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests are performed to look for certain substances or elevated enzymes in the blood that can indicate infection or disease.
  • Joint fluid analysis: In this procedure, fluid is aspirated using a needle from the affected joint to detect inflammation or the presence of any antibodies to rule out any infections.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan: An imaging study that uses a large magnetic field and radio waves to detect the presence of any lesions in the soft tissues such as the spinal cord.
  • X-rays: During this study, high electromagnetic energy beams are used to produce images of any damage in the bones.
  • Ultrasound: This test produces images of the internal organs using sound waves of high frequency.

Treatment for Crohn’s Disease-Related Arthritis

The arthritis symptoms will subside if the underlying Crohn’s disease is treated and managed. Some of the common treatment methods to manage symptoms include:

  • Medications: Your doctor will recommend over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, corticosteroids, and opioid medications to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Diet: Avoid foods that trigger inflammation in the digestive system such as fried foods, foods with high-fat content, and packaged and processed foods. Anti-inflammatory probiotics should be included in your diet.
  • Rest: Get adequate rest and elevate the joint when symptoms flare up.
  • Regular Exercise: Consistent physical activity to strengthen muscles using proper exercise techniques and comfortable, supportive footwear without overexerting yourself will help maintain mobility and function. 
  • Aqua Therapy: Water exercise can help to relax and take the stress off painful joints.
  • Acupuncture: This method involves the insertion of very thin metal needles into the skin at specific points on the body to stimulate healing and promote relaxation.
  • Massage: It involves manipulating the tissues of the affected area to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
  • American Board of Internal Medicine
  • American Medical Association
  • American College of Gastroenterology
  • Texas Medical Association
  • Memorial Hermann Foundation
  • HCA Healthcare
  • Methodist Church
  • Howard University College of Medicine
  • American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
  • UT Health San Antonio