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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) (cont.)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Symptoms

Because inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic disease (lasting a long time), a person has periods of time in which the disease flares up and causes symptoms. These periods are followed by remission, in which symptoms disappear or decrease and good health returns.

Symptoms may range from mild to severe and generally depend upon the part of the intestinal tract involved. They include:

  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Severe urgency to have a bowel movement
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia (due to blood loss)

Intestinal complications of inflammatory bowel disease include the following:

  • Profuse bleeding from the ulcers
  • Perforation (rupture) of the bowel
  • Strictures and obstruction: In persons with Crohn's disease, strictures often are inflammatory and frequently resolve with medical treatment. Fixed or fibrotic (scarring) strictures may require endoscopic or surgical intervention to relieve the obstruction. In ulcerative colitis, colonic strictures should be presumed to be malignant (cancerous).
  • Fistulae (abnormal passage) and perianal disease: These are more common in persons with Crohn's disease. They may not respond to vigorous medical treatment. Surgical intervention often is required, and there is a high risk of recurrence.
  • Toxic mega colon (acute no obstructive dilation of the colon): Although rare, toxic mega colon is a life-threatening complication of ulcerative colitis and requires urgent surgical intervention.
  • Malignancy: The risk of colon cancer in ulcerative colitis begins to rise significantly above that of the general population after approximately 8 to 10 years of diagnosis. The risk of cancer in Crohn's disease may equal that of ulcerative colitis if the entire colon is involved. The risk of small intestine malignancy is increased in Crohn's disease.

Extraintestinal Complications

  • Extraintestinal involvement of IBD refers to complications involving organs other than the intestines. These affect only a small percentage of people with IBD.
  • Persons with IBD may have arthritis, skin conditions, inflammation of the eye, liver and kidney disorders, and bone loss. Of all the extraintestinal complications, arthritis is the most common. Joint, eye, and skin complications often occur together.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/3/2014

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