COPD, Asthma May Increase Risk for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Study results published in the European Respiratory Journal show that rates of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) incidence have significantly increased in individuals with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Study results published in the European Respiratory Journal show that rates of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) incidence have significantly increased in individuals with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Paul Brassard, MD, from the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology, Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and the study’s lead author commented, “These findings have important implications for the early detection of IBD in airway disease patients. Although a link has previously been suggested, this is the first study to find significantly increased rates of IBD incidence in people with asthma and COPD. If we can confirm a link between the 2 conditions it will help diagnose and treat people sooner, reducing their symptoms and improving their quality of life.”

Researchers’ primary goal was to compare the incidences of Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) in patients with asthma and/or COPD with incidences of the conditions in the general population. They found, among a total of 136,178 patients with asthma, the average CD and UC incidences were23.1 and 8.8/100,000 person-years. Among 143,904 patients with COPD, average incidences were 26.2 CD and 17 UC cases/100,000 person-years.

The incidence of CD in patients with asthma and with COPD was 27% and 55% higher, respectively. Additionally, UC incidence was 30% higher among patients with COPD.

“IBD and airway diseases may be associated through common inflammatory pathways, genetic and environmental factors,” wrote to the study authors. “The intestinal and respiratory epithelia share the same embryologic origin, have a similar anatomic structure and serve as organ barrier between the body and the environment. Immunological dysfunctions triggered by environmental factors are a common element in the pathogenesis of both IBD and airway diseases such as asthma and COPD.”

Study results suggested that women afflicted with asthma were more likely to develop CD than men, and men with COPD were more likely to develop UC than women.

The authors concluded, “Confirmation of such results in future studies may have implications in earlier detection of IBD and in the therapeutic management of patients. Medical professionals involved in the care of airway disease patients who develop digestive symptoms need to be aware of the possible occurrence of new cases of IBD even in older age groups and regardless of smoking status.”