The following guide covers Crohn’s Disease Complications.
As if the discomfort and issues that Crohn’s Disease creates on its own aren’t enough, it also has the potential for further complications branching out from the initial disease. That is just another reason why a person who has been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease should be carefully monitored by their physician.
Intestinal stricture and fistulas are the more prevalent and serious complications, which we will discuss below, in depth. But, there are other concerns as well which we will also touch on in this article, in hopes that you can spot signs early to get medical attention as quickly as possible.
Crohn’s Disease Complications
From previous articles in this series, you know that Crohn’s Disease produces inflammation within the intestines and bowel. As a result of this inflammation, scar tissue can possibly form, causing the afflicted section to narrow. When this happens in the intestine, the restriction is referred to as an intestinal stricture.
As this occurs, you run the risk of the inability to rid the intestine of digestive waste, which could lead to an obstruction. What this means is that you most likely would only be able to pass watery waste during a bowel movement. There are other symptoms that would go along with the lack of formed stool, and they include:
- Cramping and pain in the abdomen
- Bloating and discomfort
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdomen feeling uncomfortably full, regardless of intake
When this happens, and it’s undetected or untreated, it could cause the bowel to perforate, or, split. Should this occur, the waste from the bowel could then leak through the split or hole, and can be very serious. So, if you suspect that you might have an intestinal stricture, contact your doctor right away.
There are a couple options your doctor will probably mention to repair the intestine. The first is a balloon dilation. This procedure is done through a colonoscopy, using a colonscope. A balloon is inserted during the procedure, then inflated in the area of concern, to re-open the passage.
There is a chance that the balloon dilation is not a viable option for some people, or that it fails. If that is the case, then you might next hear the term stricturoplasty. It’s a more complex surgery, where the surgeon will expand the area of the intestine that has been narrowed, as well as reshape it.
It’s not uncommon for ulcers to develop, if the digestive system has scarring from excessive inflammation. And, if the ulcers are there for a while, they could create tunnels, streaming from the digestive system to other parts of the body, such as the skin or bladder. These tunnels are referred to as fistulas.
If the fistula is small, there might not be any symptoms. However, the larger ones have the potential for infection, and the symptoms might include:
- Blood or mucus in stool
- Continuous pain
- Leakage between bowel movements
- Foul odor in discharge
Quite often, fistulas can be treated with medications. If that doesn’t work, then your doctor will most likely recommend a surgical procedure.
Osteoporosis is when the bones are in a weakened state, and become very fragile. When the intestines do not adequately absorb vital nutrients, which is typically the case with Crohn’s Disease, osteoporosis can develop.
Significant use of steroids, a common treatment for Crohn’s, can also lead to osteoporosis.
Iron Deficiency and Folate Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is an ailment that can develop in Crohn’s Disease patients, when there is bleeding within the digestive system. The most common symptoms for this include pale complexion, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
Folate deficiency (B12) anemia occurs due to the lack of folate, or Vitamin B12 in the system, due to poor absorption. Fatigue is a common trait of this deficiency.
When you lose your appetite, or your intake leaves through excessive diarrhea and vomiting, before nutrients can be absorbed, it could lead to malnutrition in prolonged cases.
A child with Crohn’s Disease might have issues with proper growth, due to malnutrition. Doctors will closely monitor a child’s progress and might prescribe certain medicines to help counter the lack of nutrients.
Colon and colorectal cancers are a potential concern for people who have Crohn’s Disease. It is far from a certainty, but a person’s risk does increase with this disease. So, anyone who has it, will be monitored and screened for these cancers more frequently than a person who does not have Crohn’s.
Crohn’s Disease Complications – Final Words
As you can see, a person living with Crohn’s Disease has far more to worry about than a disruptive digestive system. And, it’s why it is very important to be compliant with diet, medication, and regular doctor visits.