"These studies remind us that the effects of inflammatory bowel disorders extend to every corner of the body, including the lungs and central nervous system," says Edward Loftus Jr. of the Mayo Clinic, who wrote an editorial accompanying two studies.
"The findings lend credence to the concept that patients with one chronic inflammatory condition are more likely than the general population to develop another."
Unlike the poorly understood but more common condition known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), IBD is frequently associated with symptoms occurring outside the bowel. These can include inflammation of the eyes, mouth ulcers, joint pain or swelling, and other inflammatory-related conditions.
Link With MS Long Suspected
A link between IBD and multiple sclerosis has been suspected for some time, but earlier studies have been conflicting. Powerful new drugs used to treat IBD, which block inflammation-causing tumor necrosis factor (TNF -- a part of the immune system), are also suspected of causing multiple sclerosis.
Medications that block TNF like Remicade and Humira are now required to contain labels warning of a possible link to multiple sclerosis and similar conditions. But all agree that their role in the disease is far from clear.
In one of the two new studies, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researchers compared 20,000 IBD sufferers in the U.K. to 80,000 people with similar characteristics who did not have IBD.