A recent study has found that people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have a higher risk of suffering from a stroke, compared to those without the condition.

Published in the journal Neurology, the findings outlined individuals diagnosed with IBD exhibited a 13% higher likelihood of experiencing a stroke within a span of 25 years compared to those without IBD. The study, however, didn't say IBD causes stroke, but merely pointed out the possible association.

"These results show that people with inflammatory bowel disease and their doctors should be aware of this long-term increased risk," study author Jiangwei Sun, Ph.D., of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden told Medical Express. "Screening and management of stroke risk factors may be more urgent in people with IBD."

What is inflammatory bowel disease?

IBD is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. This includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. It is characterized by abnormal immune responses to gut microflora in genetically susceptible individuals. IBD presents with symptoms such as bloody diarrhea, tenesmus, and abdominal pain, according to the National Library of Medicine.

As part of the study, researchers compared their findings from 85,006 individuals diagnosed with IBD to that of 406,987 people who didn't have IBD, but were similar in terms of age, gender, and location. Over a period of 12 years, they discovered that 3,720 IBD patients experienced a stroke, while 15,599 non-IBD individuals had a stroke.

This means that the stroke rate was higher among those with IBD (32.6 cases per 10,000 person-years) compared to those without IBD (27.7 cases per 10,000 person-years). The study suggests a potential link between IBD and an increased risk of stroke, but further research is necessary to understand this relationship better.

Researchers then evaluated other risk factors associated with stroke such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity and found that those with IBD were 13% more likely to encounter the cardiac event.

Alongside the initial participants, the study incorporated 101,082 full siblings of individuals with IBD, who had no prior history of IBD or stroke. Consistent with the primary findings, people with IBD displayed a greater likelihood of experiencing a stroke compared to their IBD-free siblings. Overall, the risk of stroke was found to be 11% higher among individuals with IBD.

"The elevated risk for people with IBD remained even 25 years after they were first diagnosed, corresponding to one additional stroke case for every 93 people with IBD until that point," Sun said.

Gastrointestinal Disorder
Children with irritable bowel syndrome are also at risk to celiac disease. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock