1Rheumatology Research Unit, Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, University Federico II, Via Sergio Pansini 5, 80131 Naples, Italy.
2Complex Operating Unit of Gastroenterology, AORN 'A. Cardarelli', Naples, Italy.
3Rheumatology Research Unit and Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, University Federico II, Naples, Italy.
4Rheumatology and Rehabilitation Research Unit 'Salvatore Maugeri' Foundation, Telese Terme (BN), Italy.
5Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, University Federico II, Naples, Italy.
The most common extra-intestinal manifestation in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is articular involvement, with a prevalence ranging between 17% and 39%. It is frequently characterized by an involvement of the axial joints but may also be associated with peripheral arthritis. The target of therapy in the management of arthritis associated with IBD is to reduce the inflammation and prevent any disability and/or deformity. This requires active cooperation between gastroenterologist and rheumatologist. The treatment of axial involvement has focused on the combination of exercise with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Immunomodulators have been efficacious in patients with peripheral arthritis and other extra-intestinal manifestations, but they are not effective for the treatment of axial symptoms of spondylitis. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) α inhibitors have been proven to be highly effective in the treatment of IBD patients which are steroid-dependent or refractory to conventional therapy and in patients with associated articular manifestations. The treatment of peripheral involvement and/or enthesitis and/or dactylitis is based on local steroid injections, while sulfasalazine and/or low doses of systemic steroids may be useful in case of inadequate response to intra-articular steroids. Sulfasalazine induces only a little improvement in peripheral arthritis. Immunomodulators such as methotrexate, azathioprine, cyclosporine and leflunomide show their efficacy in some patients with peripheral arthritis and other extra-intestinal components. TNF-α inhibitors should be considered the first-line therapeutic approach when moderate-to-severe luminal Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis is associated with polyarthritis. The aim of this review is to provide a fair summary of current treatment options for the arthritis associated with IBD.