Increased Risk of Irritable Bowel Disease With Biologics

The emergence of Biologics has provided effective relief for individuals suffering from autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. However studies have recently confirmed a direct correlation between patients who used biologics and those who went on to develop ulcerative colitis (UC) and Chrohn’s, two of the more prevalent forms of irritable bowel disease (IBD). 

Biologics like Humira, Enbrel and Remicade are protein-based drugs derived from living cells.  They work by deactivating the “bad actor” in the body’s immune system, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which interact with other cells to initiate the inflammatory response associated with specific autoimmune diseases. By targeting specific cells Biologics can regulate the immune response with less side effects than other more systemic medicines. However, with the body’s  immune response comes at a price: the possibility of immunodeficiency, infection, and now IBD. These findings emphasize the need for increased monitoring and awareness by both physician and patient. 

Both UC and Chrohn’s are inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract and are autoimmune in nature.  However whereas UC results in the formation of ulcers and sores in the large intestine (also known as the colon), inflammation from Chrohn’s is more commonly noted in the small intestine and the beginning of the colon, though it can also occur anywhere between the mouth and anus. Symptoms of both diseases include abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stool and an urgency to use the bathroom. As both diseases can significantly impact quality of life, with potentially severe and in some cases life threatening complications, it’s important to speak to your doctor if you notice any unusual GI symptoms.

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