Skip to Main Content

Arthritis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, that cause an inflammation of the intestines. Approximately 7 to 20 percent of people with IBD develop arthritis, which typically affects the large joints of the lower extremities. Men and women with IBD are affected by arthritis equally.

Our approach to arthritis of inflammatory bowel disease

Treatment for arthritis linked to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) aims to address the underlying condition, the IBD itself. Most patients' arthritis symptoms improve dramatically once their IBD is controlled.

UCSF provides comprehensive evaluations and advanced care for all types of inflammatory bowel disease. Our team includes many kinds of specialists, such as gastroenterologists, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, immunologists, nutritionists and psychologists. Treatment options include modified diets, medications and surgery. Our goal is to improve patients' quality of life, and we encourage their input when making treatment decisions.

In addition to caring for patients, our providers are exploring potential new therapies for IBD. Interested patients may have the option to receive investigational treatments by participating in clinical trials.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • One of the nation's best in gastroenterology & GI surgery

  • usnews-rheumatology

    Best in California and No. 7 in the nation for rheumatology

Signs & symptoms

Symptoms of arthritis (joint pain, swelling and stiffness) usually occur at the same time a person is experiencing symptoms of IBD.


Your doctor will begin by recording your complete medical history, including a description of your symptoms. You also will undergo a physical examination to check for any physical signs of the disease.


In most cases, the arthritis improves dramatically when the underlying inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is treated. Treatment may consist of the following:

  • A modified diet
  • Exercise
  • Surgery
  • Drug therapy

Possible medications include corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, sulfasalazine and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

Recommended reading

Nutrition Tips for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term used for two separate diseases: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Find nutritional recommendations for each.

Where to get care (2)

    Support services

    Patient Resource

    Case Management & Social Work

    Connect with a team that can help you find resources, solve problems and advocate for you during treatment at UCSF.


    Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Class

    This eight-week class teaches mindfulness practices that can reduce stress and improve your overall health, such as meditation and body awareness.

    Patient Resource

    Patient Relations

    We welcome feedback about your experience at UCSF Health. Find out how to contact us with comments, questions or concerns.

    Patient Resource

    Spiritual Care Services

    Chaplains representing many faiths are available around the clock to provide support, comfort and counsel to patients, families and caregivers.