Crohn’s disease and lupus erythematosus (lupus) are autoimmune conditions. Some forms of lupus may occur alongside Crohn’s disease, while others typically do not.

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Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks tissues throughout the body with inflammation. Prolonged inflammation can cause permanent tissue damage and worsening symptoms.

Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Like lupus, it is an autoimmune disorder associated with immune system inflammation. Unlike in lupus, this inflammation primarily attacks the tissues of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

This article reviews the similarities and differences between lupus and Crohn’s disease, how doctors diagnose them, and whether they can occur together. It also explains how drug-induced lupus develops and the outlook for people with these conditions.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Lupus and Crohn’s disease are autoimmune disorders. This means a person’s immune system uses inflammation to attack healthy cells and tissue.

Both can cause periods of flares and remission. Flares are when symptoms worsen, while remission refers to either complete or partial symptom relief for some time.


Symptoms of lupus and Crohn’s disease can be similar depending on what body parts are involved. Both can affect the GI tract.

Some possible overlapping symptoms include:


Lupus and Crohn’s disease require treatment with similar goals, such as:

  • decreasing symptom severity
  • preventing flares
  • stopping further damage to organs or tissue

Treatment approaches are different for the two conditions and often require medications to help treat and prevent flares.

Though both lupus and Crohn’s disease are autoimmune disorders, there are quite a few differences between them.

Who do they affect?

Both conditions can affect anyone. However, they have different primarily affected groups.


According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, lupus often occurs in people aged 15–45 years and affects about 9 times as many females as males.

It states that African Americans, Native Americans, and people of Asian descent are more likely to develop the condition than white people. African Americans, Hispanic people, and those of Chinese descent appear to be more likely to have organ involvement than other groups.

Crohn’s disease

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation reports that Crohn’s disease affects males and females equally, and doctors typically diagnose it when a person is 20–30 years old.

It also suggests IBD is more common in white people compared with those of other ethnicities. It has an erratic genetic component, meaning that although a person who develops it often has a family member with the condition, family history cannot predict new cases.

Body areas affected

Another difference between the two is the affected areas. Crohn’s typically affects any part of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus, though it can sometimes involve the liver and kidneys.

Lupus can affect several different organs and systems throughout the body, such as the:

  • brain
  • joints
  • muscles
  • tendons
  • nervous system
  • skin
  • digestive system
  • lungs
  • heart
  • kidneys
  • eyes
  • blood
  • bones
  • liver

Treatment and management

Management of each condition differs in terms of the medications and other therapies doctors use to treat them. Crohn’s often improves with medications, dietary changes, and, in severe cases, surgery.

A doctor often manages lupus and helps prevent complications with medications. People may also benefit from complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, special diets, or supplements.

Diagnosing Crohn’s disease involves medical examinations and testing. Tests help a doctor rule out other possible causes of symptoms.

Tests a doctor may use include:

Diagnosing lupus also requires a medical examination and testing. Diagnostic tools may include:

  • a review of family history and symptoms
  • tissue biopsies, such as from the skin or kidneys
  • a urine test
  • a blood test to check for certain antibodies

Lupus and Crohn’s disease very rarely occur together.

A recent case study involved only one person with a dual combination. Researchers noted that both conditions have an unknown cause but share some similar signs and symptoms.

Drug-induced lupus

Although the two conditions do not commonly occur together, a 2020 study suggests a form of lupus known as drug-induced lupus frequently occurs with Crohn’s disease. The drug-induced type is often less severe.

As the name suggests, drug-induced lupus develops as a reaction to a person’s medications. Several different drugs, including those used to treat Crohn’s disease, can cause it.

According to the 2020 study, drug-induced lupus may occur when a person takes anti-tumor necrosis factor agents or sulfasalazine as a treatment.

Drug-induced lupus may occur months or even years after exposure to the drug. Symptoms may resolve within weeks when a person stops taking the medication.

People with lupus and Crohn’s disease have a risk of developing other conditions.

Do other autoimmune conditions occur with Crohn’s?

People with Crohn’s disease are more likely to have certain chronic health conditions than other people. Some common co-occurring conditions include:

Meanwhile, people with lupus have a higher risk of certain physical and mental conditions, including cardiovascular issues and depression or anxiety.

However, with effective treatment and management, a person with either condition can often live a typical lifespan and enjoy a full life.

For helpful resources on managing and living with IBD, visit our dedicated hub.

Lupus and Crohn’s disease are both autoimmune disorders. They can cause similar symptoms and require treatment to help prevent flares and keep a person in remission.

Treatments can vary between the two conditions. Although they do not occur together often, a person may develop drug-induced lupus due to medications for Crohn’s disease.

A person with either condition will need to receive treatment to help prevent complications and other related health conditions from occurring. However, people with lupus and Crohn’s disease generally have positive outlooks.