Background: Several neurological disorders have been described in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients, but their exact frequency is unknown.
Methods: We prospectively studied the prevalence of neurological disorders (especially peripheral neuropathy) in a group of 82 patients with Crohn's disease (CD, n = 31) or ulcerative colitis (UC, n = 51) from 2 Brazilian tertiary care university clinics and followed them through a period of at least 1 year. All patients were interviewed and had complete neurological evaluations.
Results: Large-fiber sensory or sensorimotor polyneuropathy (PN) was observed in 16.1% of the CD and 19.6% of the UC patients. PN was usually mild, predominantly symmetric, and distal with axonal involvement. One patient had demyelinating PN at the diagnosis of CD. Mild carpal tunnel syndrome was common in female UC patients. Sensory symptoms without electromyography abnormalities, suggestive of small-fiber neuropathy or subclinical myelopathy, affected 29% and 11.8%, respectively. After excluding other known etiological or contributory factors for PN, 13.4% of the IBD patients had otherwise unexplained large-fiber or small-fiber PN (7.3% with large-fiber SM PN). Nondebilitating headache was the most common neurological complaint. Three patients had ischemic strokes, 5 were epileptic, and 1 transient chorea.
Conclusions: Neurological disorders, especially PN, are common in our Brazilian cohort of IBD patients. They are diverse, multifactorial, and more common in women. Despite the mild phenotype in most cases, attention should be given by the general practitioner and gastroenterologist since they are frequently undiagnosed. Further studies are necessary to confirm these findings in populations with different genetic and nutritional backgrounds.
(Inflamm Bowel Dis 2007)