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6 Signs That Show Your Crohn's Disease May Be Worsening

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Forty percent of people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can experience extra-intestinal manifestations (EIMS): The reasons are not clear as to why they develop, but changes in their symptoms will progress or worsen over time.

The most common ones are:

1. Arthritis: Inflames joints which may flare up when Crohn’s is active or develop a chronic condition that can flare and linger. When the GI symptoms have resolved, arthritis will improve as well.

2. Liver issues: A common and fairly minor complication is fatty liver disease. It doesn’t usually cause symptoms or require treatment. Primary sclerosis cholangitis can cause severe inflammation, scarring and narrowing of the bile ducts. It’s a progressive EIM that may develop into cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.

3. Eye disorders: Eye complications are usually treatable and not likely to cause loss of vision. Uveitis can cause pain in the middle eye layer along with blurred vision, light sensitivity and headaches which may come on suddenly or gradually. Early recognition is important as it can become a medical emergency that may cause visiting loss if left untreated.

4. Gallstones: Crohn’s patients are a higher risk for developing gallstones, so it’s suggested they eat a low-fat diet to avoid any problems. Registered dietitians can educate those who need information on how to find foods and make meals that are low in fat content.

5. Kidney Stones: Crohn’s patients with small bowel disease as well as those who’ve had many small-bowel resections have kidney stone occurrences most often. Sharp pain in the sides, nausea and vomiting are the symptoms if a stone is present. They can be prevented by having a low-fat and low-oxalate diet. (Oxalate is a chemical that is found in plant foods such as spinach, bran, nuts, chips, and French fries.) Drink plenty of fluids that contain electrolytes. Treatment varies due to the severity of a patient’s symptoms. They may also need a consult with a nephrologist or urologist.

6. Osteoporosis: Those who have IBD are at a higher risk of getting this.  Bones become weak and brittle. Symptoms in the early stages include back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra, loss of height over time, a stooped posture and a bone that breaks easier than expected. Having good nutrition and regular exercise is essential to keep the bones healthy.

Crohn’s disease not only affects the digestive system, but it can also affect different parts of the body causing inflammation. Symptoms can vary in each patient and will either improve or worsen over time. If treatment has stopped working, the physician needs to know right away so something else can be done to see if it will bring relief to the patient.

Getty image by Ponomariova_Maria

Originally published: May 14, 2021
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