Crohn’s disease symptoms.
While a gastroenterologist is needed to confirm a Crohn’s diagnosis, it’s important to recognize its signs and symptoms. Crohn’s symptoms can vary from person to person, some being more common than others. If you know what to look out for, and you’re aware of which symptoms you are experiencing, it will help you be prepared for the conversation with your gastroenterologist when the time comes.
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When flare-ups arise
When you’re diagnosed and on a treatment plan, it’s possible to go into remission with Crohn’s. Remission is when you experience few or no symptoms for a period of time. But if those symptoms reappear or worsen, that’s called a flare-up. Make sure to let a doctor know if you're experiencing a flare-up or if your symptoms change, as it could be a sign that there is active inflammation.
What can make a flare-up flare up?
- Forgetting, skipping, or taking the wrong dose of medication—Flare-ups can happen when medications aren’t taken as prescribed. If you’re taking your medication as prescribed and are still experiencing a flare-up, speak to your doctor as soon as you can about whether your treatment plan should be adjusted.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—These include aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen. They can lead to bowel inflammation—making symptoms worse.
- Antibiotics—Even though these are good for treating bacterial infections, antibiotics can also alter the bacteria in the intestine. Changes to intestinal bacteria may cause diarrhea or inflammation. Tell your doctor if you’re taking an antibiotic and experience a flare-up of Crohn’s symptoms.
- Stress—Physical and emotional stress do not cause Crohn’s—but they can contribute to its symptoms.
- Foods or trigger foods—Foods that irritate your GI tract can worsen flare-ups. Learn more about them here.
Fight fire with what works for your Crohn’s
It’s not always possible to prevent flare-ups, but there are ways to help reduce the chance of them happening.
- Always take your medicine as prescribed
- Visit your gastroenterologist consistently—and have open conversations about your symptoms
- Monitor and track how your Crohn’s disease behaves
- Keep up with Crohn’s-related tests and procedures
- Set up your support system
- Maintain a well-balanced diet and consider vitamins or mineral supplements
- Get on a regular exercise routine
- Don’t smoke
- Bring down your stress levels
Keep an eye on those symptoms
It’s a great idea to keep track of your symptoms—having a symptoms journal, if you will. That way, you and your gastroenterologist have a firm understanding of your disease activity and can gauge how your treatment is working or if it needs to be adjusted.
With a symptoms journal, there are a few important things to track:
- How often do you have symptoms (such as abdominal pain, loose bowel movements, and loss of appetite)?
- Have you experienced changes in your appetite or weight?
- How does Crohn’s impact you emotionally?
- How does it affect your daily life?
- How often you have other complications (such as joint, skin, and eye problems)?
Make sure to let a gastroenterologist know about your symptoms and if they change. Your doctor will continue to monitor your disease even if you’re not experiencing symptoms to check for inflammation inside your GI tract.
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