People with diseases of their airways, such as asthma, are more likely to have an inflammatory bowel disease, a new study has found.
This marks the first population-based study to investigate the link between diseases of the airways and the incidence of bowel diseases.
Canadian researchers used a health database to identify patients with two common diseases of the airways, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Over 136,000 patients with asthma and almost 144,000 patients with COPD were identified.
The participants were then further assessed to identify those with inflammatory bowel disease, which refers to the conditions, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
These conditions affect around 15,000 people in Ireland and symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fever, loss of appetite and weight loss. Left uncontrolled, symptoms may flare up, causing severe abdominal pain and frequent visits to the bathroom.
The study found that the incidence of Crohn’s disease was 55% higher in people with COPD and 27% higher in people with asthma, compared to the general population.
Meanwhile, the incidence of ulcerative colitis was 30% higher in those with COPD.
“These findings have important implications for the early detection of inflammatory bowel disease in airway disease patients. Although a link has previously been suggested, this is the first study to find significantly increased rates of inflammatory bowel disease incidence in people with asthma and COPD.
“If we can confirm a link between the two conditions it will help diagnose and treat people sooner, reducing their symptoms and improving their quality of life,” the researchers said.
Details of these findings are published in the European Respiratory Journal.