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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Health Center

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IBD Linked to Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

Studies Show Greater Risk of Autoimmune Disorders for People with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Link With MS Long Suspected continued...

The risk of developing multiple sclerosis or a related disease was 1.7 times higher for the people who had IBD compared with those without IBD.

The researchers characterize the association as "small but significant."

Medications that block TNF had not been introduced at the time the database was compiled, suggesting an independent link between IBD and multiple sclerosis and other MS-like disorders, study co-researcher James D. Lewis, MD, tells WebMD.

"This study does not answer the questions about the safety of this new collection of anti-TNF-alpha therapies and whether IBD patients should or should not use them," he says.

Beyond GI Symptoms

In the second study, researchers in Canada examined the relationship between IBD and a group of common lung and neurological diseases believed to be mediated by the immune system. They did this by examining a database of just over 8,000 patients treated for IBD over a 19-year period. Each patient was matched with 10 people who did not have IBD.

The researchers reported that people with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease had modestly elevated risks of having other inflammatory conditions including asthma, arthritis, bronchitis, psoriasis, and heart disease related to inflammation.

Ulcerative colitis, but not Crohn's disease, was linked to a greater risk for multiple sclerosis and chronic kidney disease.

In more than half of the cases, these diseases were diagnosed before the IBD, lending support to the idea that they share a common genetic or environmental cause.

Loftus tells WebMD that the findings highlight the importance of looking beyond gastrointestinal symptoms when treating patients with IBD.

"It is important to treat the whole patient and not just the GI symptoms," he says.

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