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6 Complications of Crohn's Disease That Affect Your Body

The article was written by MSc Mai Vien Phuong - Department of Examination & Internal Medicine, Vinmec Central Park International General Hospital
Although Crohn's disease is often associated with diarrhea and abdominal pain, its symptoms are varied and can affect many other parts of your body.

1. Anemia Anemia is an iron deficiency that reduces your red blood cell count and limits the amount of oxygen transported to your body's tissues. People with Crohn's disease sometimes develop anemia due to blood loss from intestinal ulcers. It can also be the result of malnutrition due to a decreased ability to absorb nutrients.
Some of the main symptoms of anemia are:
Weakness Fatigue Pale Skin Dizziness Headache Anemia is one of the most common complications of Crohn's. It is usually treated with a course of iron supplements, either orally or through intravenous (IV) therapy.
2. Mouth ulcers Crohn's symptoms can occur anywhere in your digestive tract, including your mouth. The most common type is minor pressure sores, which often resemble sores and last up to two weeks. A small percentage of people with Crohn's may also develop aphthous ulcers, which are larger, and can take up to 6 weeks to heal.
Treatment of Crohn's-related mouth ulcers usually includes only maintaining Crohn's medication and managing your disease. In severe cases, topical steroids and immunosuppressants may be indicated.
3. Intestinal stricture

Intestinal stenosis is a condition in which the intestines are narrowed making it difficult for food to pass through. In some cases, they can lead to a complete blockage of the intestinal tract. People with Crohn's sometimes develop a bowel wall due to a buildup of scar tissue from long periods of inflammation.
Intestinal stenosis is often accompanied by:
Abdominal pain Severe spasmodic-type pain in the abdomen Severe bloating, gas The treatment for intestinal obstruction in Crohn's disease varies from person to person. The most common forms are anti-inflammatory medication, endoscopic balloon angioplasty, and surgery.
4. Anal fissure

Anal fissures are small tears in the tissue lining the anal canal. People with Crohn's disease sometimes develop anal fissures because chronic inflammation in their intestinal tract makes this tissue vulnerable to tearing.
Symptoms of anal fistula include:
Pain during and after a bowel movement Bright red blood in your stool Visible cracks in the skin around the anus Anal fissures usually heal on their own after a few weeks. If symptoms persist, anal fissures can be treated with local anesthetics, botox injections, or topical nitroglycerin treatment. In more severe cases, surgery is also an option.
5. Anal fistula A fistula is an abnormal connection between your intestines and another organ, or between your intestines and your skin. About one in four people with Crohn's will develop a fistula at some point.
Fistulas can occur in people with Crohn's because the inflammation spreads through the intestinal wall and forms tunnel-like tunnels. Anal fistulas are the most common type, but bowel-to-bladder, bowel-to-vaginal, bowel-to-skin, and intestinal-to-intestinal fistulas can also occur. Leak symptoms depend on the type you have.
Treatment also varies according to the type of fistula, but common options include antibiotics, immunosuppressants, and surgery.
6. Arthritis Another symptom of Crohn's that occurs outside of the intestines is arthritis - A painful inflammation of the joints. The most common type of arthritis in people with Crohn's disease is peripheral arthritis.
Peripheral arthritis affects larger joints such as knees, elbows, wrists and ankles. The degree of arthritis often reflects the amount of inflammation in the colon. If left untreated, the pain can last up to several weeks.
Some people with Crohn's may also develop axial arthritis, which causes pain and stiffness in the lower spine. Although peripheral arthritis usually doesn't lead to any long-term damage, axial arthritis can cause long-term damage if the bones in the spine fuse together.
Doctors will often treat Crohn's-related arthritis by controlling inflammation in the colon. Anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids may also be used in more severe cases.
If you are living with Crohn's disease and are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, consult a specialist who will diagnose the cause and recommend an appropriate treatment plan to help ease your symptoms.

>> See more: Treatment of high-risk Crohn's patients - Article by Doctor Mai Vien Phuong - Department of Examination & Internal Medicine - Vinmec Central Park International General Hospital.

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References:
Arthritis and joint pain [Fact sheet]. (2015). crohnscolitisfoundation.org/assets/pdfs/arthritiscomplications.pdf Chang CW, et al. (2015). Intestinal stricture in Crohn's disease.DOI: 10.5217/ir.2015.13.1.19 Crohn's disease overview. (n.d.). badgut.org/information-center/a-z-digestive-topics/crohns-disease/ The facts about inflammatory bowel diseases. (2014). crohnscolitisfoundation.org/assets/pdfs/updatedibdfactbook.pdf Living with a fistula. (2016). s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/files.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/Publications/fistula.pdf Living with Crohn's disease. (2018). crohnscolitisfoundation.org/assets/pdfs/living-with-crohns-disease.pdf

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