Did you know that the joint aches of microscopic colitis can occur many days before the first day of a new flareup of diarrhea?

A small percentage of people with microscopic colitis experience associated  but benign joint aches.

Medical literature says that joint aches, that are associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, can precede the gut problems of these conditions in a new flare-up.

But what about joint aches, that are linked to microscopic colitis, occurring in a new flare-up of this IBD, before the diarrhea comes?

“The amount of time it takes for each symptom to manifest itself varies from patient to patient,” explains says Jeffrey Fine, MD, chief of gastroenterology at the Medical Surgical Clinic of Irving.

“Some may have joint aches for three months before they start seeing other symptoms, but it could take years.”

Arthralgia: pain in the joints (“arth” refers to joints, and “algia” refers to pain).

“I recommend seeing a rheumatologist if you’ve had joint aches for a couple of weeks or more,” continues Dr. Fine.

“Generally speaking, joint aches aren’t just joint aches – just like diarrhea isn’t just diarrhea.

“These symptoms are often signs of more complex issues, and it’s best to get as much information as you can, as early as possible.”

What if the patient has already been diagnosed with microscopic colitis?

This condition can be transient or intermittent, while others have it daily and chronically.

“Every patient is different, so yes — it is possible that they will experience joint aches for a while and then diarrhea,” says Dr. Fine.

There’s no research on this precise phenomenon. Why would researchers want to invest time and money on studying the range of time that can pass between onset of joint aches and onset of diarrhea in a flare-up of microscopic colitis?

Nevertheless, I’m sure that some individuals who have microscopic colitis wonder about this.

It sure got ME thinking, because I’ve had two bouts of microscopic colitis in a three-year and eight-month period.

The second round was the craziest thing because it consisted of joint aches ALONE that masqueraded as PMS (especially since one of the locations of the aching was the pelvic region)—only I had by then completed menopause!

Differential Diagnoses

  1. One last “hurrah” of an ovary: PMS, despite high fsh level
  2. Ovarian cyst (though this won’t cause ankle, wrist or neck aches, which I had)
  3. Psoriatic arthritis, which my brother has (though this won’t cause pelvic cramping, which I had)
  4. Celiac disease (a past lab test revealed I have the celiac gene)
  5. A second flare-up of microscopic colitis (though I didn’t have any diarrhea)

Time passage ruled out ovulation, and tests ruled out any other gynecological cause.

Going gluten free for five days ruled out celiac disease. That left psoriatic arthritis or microscopic colitis.

But no matter how much I searched the Internet, I could not find even one medical journal or medical site that named pelvic pain as a symptom of psoriatic arthritis.

After 27 days of my mysterious aching (ankles, upper legs, low back, wrists, pelvic area), I experienced explosive, watery diarrhea!

Over the next four weeks I had 25 episodes of watery or porridge-like diarrhea. There was also some gas and “bubbly” like sensations in my stomach.

For how long can joint aches precede a flare-up of microscopic colitis?

Twenty-seven days for at least one individual. Oddly, two days after the diarrhea came, the brunt of the arthralgia disappeared.

Dr. Fine has been in practice for over 30 years and specializes in digestive health, integrative medicine and food sensitivities.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Freepik.com/ Racool_studio
Sources: ccfc.ca/site/pp.asp?c=ajIRK4NLLhJ0E&b=6349433&printmode=1