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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Ankylosing spondylitis


* Not a rare disease
Other Names for this Disease
  • Ankylosing spondyloarthritis
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Your Question

Is there an association between ankylosing spondylitis and Crohn's disease?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis of the spine. It causes swelling between the vertebrae and in the joints between the spine and pelvis. This autoimmune disease is more common and more severe in men than in women.[1][2] It is likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, most of which have not yet been identified. Researchers have found variations in several genes that influence the risk of developing this disorder. These genes include HLA-B, ERAP1, IL1A, and IL23R.[3] Early symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis include back pain and stiffness. These problems often start in late adolescence or early adulthood. Over time, ankylosing spondylitis can fuse the vertebrae together, limiting movement. Symptoms can worsen, improve, or stop altogether. The disease has no cure, but medicines can relieve the pain, swelling and other symptoms. Exercise can also help.[1]
Last updated: 11/25/2009

What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the general name for conditions that cause inflammation in the intestines. Common signs and symptoms include abdominal pain and diarrhea. Bleeding from the rectum, weight loss, joint pain, skin problems and fever may also occur. Other problems can include intestinal blockage and malnutrition. Crohn's disease can occur in people of all age groups but is most often diagnosed in young adults. The exact cause is unknown, but is thought to involve both genetic and environmental factors. It appears to run in some families. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and reducing inflammation, but some people require surgery. Quitting smoking can also improve the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.[4][5]
Last updated: 11/15/2012

Is there an association between ankylosing spondylitis and Crohn's disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (ie, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease) is more common in patients with ankylosing spondylitis than in the general population.[6] In fact, the association of Crohn's disease and ankylosing spondylitis is described in up to 30% of cases.[7] It is most commonly described in advanced-stage ankylosing spondylitis.[8]

You can find relevant journal articles on the association between ankylosing spondylitis and Crohn's disease through a service called PubMed, a searchable database of medical literature. Information on finding an article and its title, authors, and publishing details is listed here.  Some articles are available as a complete document, while information on other studies is available as a summary abstract.  To obtain the full article, contact a medical/university library (or your local library for interlibrary loan), or order it online using the following link. Using "ankylosing spondylitis[ti] AND Crohn's[ti] disease" as your search term should locate articles. To narrow your search, click on the“Limits” tab under the search box and specify your criteria for locating more relevant articles.  Click here to view a search.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) Web site has a page for locating libraries in your area that can provide direct access to these journals (print or online). The Web page also describes how you can get these articles through interlibrary loan and Loansome Doc (an NLM document-ordering service). You can access this page at the following link You can also contact the NLM toll-free at 888-346-3656 to locate libraries in your area.

Last updated: 11/25/2009