The Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

With IBD, the intestines (small, large and bowels) become inflamed causing redness and swelling. Related symptoms, which can range from mild or severe, include:

  • Severe or chronic abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea, often bloody
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rectal bleeding

IBD can also have symptoms unrelated to the digestive tract, including:

  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Eye pain
  • Mouth sores
  • Fever

Symptoms can come on suddenly and ‘flare-up’ at random times, often going away for months or even years at a time. These are known as “relapses” or “flare-ups.” When symptoms are gone (though never permanently, as IBD is chronic), the patient is considered to be in remission.

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease have such similar symptoms that doctors have a hard time diagnosing what kind of IBD a patient may have.

Common Crohn’s Disease Symptoms

The primary difference between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis is the part of the digestive tract that they affect. The most common symptoms of Crohn's are diarrhea (sometimes blood) severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Crohn’s disease also causes patchy inflammation on all layers of the intestinal wall.

Though Crohn's can affect any of the digestive tract, it most commonly affects the end of the small bowel (the ileum) and the beginning of the colon. With Crohn’s disease, the inflammation causes swelling and scar tissue to thicken the intestinal wall. The passageway for food becomes narrowed (known as a stricture) and deep ulceration can cause tunnels (known as fistulas). These fistulas can connect the intestines to organs that they shouldn’t connect to, like the bladder or the skin.

Common Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

The main symptoms of ulcerative colitis are bloody diarrhea or stool, an urgent/frequent need to go to the bathroom, and incomplete evacuation of bowel movements. Ulcerative colitis affects the top layer of the large intestine. It causes swelling and ulcers to form on the surface of the lining, which bleed and produce pus. In severe cases, the ulcers can weaken the intestine and cause a hole, spilling the bacteria-laden contents of the large intestine into the abdominal cavity or the patient’s bloodstream.

In addition to the damaging the digestive tract, both conditions can create many other health problems for those afflicted. They include

  • The loss of blood from the intestines can cause anemia, or below-normal levels of healthy red blood cells
  • Arthritis and joint pain
  • Weak bones
  • Eye problems
  • Gallstones
  • Skin issues
  • Kidney stones
  • Delayed puberty and growth issues in children

Many of these problems are caused by the malabsorption of nutrients as the digestive tract is not working properly. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis flare-ups can also cause inflammation in other parts of the body. Some of these symptoms will improve when the condition are properly treated.

I have a dream that I’m turning into reality! Help me and my fellow Crohn’s disease & ulcerative colitis warriors on our journey by pledging funds to our fellowship.

On Thursday 12th September, we are hosting a continuing professional development event at Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Ennis Road, Burtonhill, Limerick.  The event topics are -


All proceeds from this event will be donated to Cycle4CrohnsColitis an initiative by Attracta O’Regan, supported by Beaumont Hospital Foundation and the Law Society Finuas Skillnet.