Probably the most important question to those first learning about inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is “what are the symptoms of IBD?” The symptoms listed are the ten most common ones experienced by IBD patients, and while they are not fatal, all of them seriously affect a patient’s quality of life. Each symptom is described in detail to give you a better idea about what patient’s experience.
1. Frequent diarrhea
The inflammation in IBD hinders the uptake of water in the colon, causing diarrhea. Inflammation waxes and wanes in IBD and so does the ensuing diarrhea. Patients experience “remission” periods of little diarrhea followed by relapses called “flares.” Although the diarrhea may wax and wane, IBD stool is rarely normal even during remission, and a flare can keep them tied to a toilet for days.
2. Increased amounts of gas
Intestinal bacteria create gastrointestinal gas when they digest particles of food that you eat. Many patients experience more and smellier gas. Studies looking at the composition of gas collected from healthy individuals and those with IBD have shown that gas from IBD patients is, indeed, different.
3. Abdominal cramping
IBD patients have more abdominal cramping. This is the result of increased gas, active intestinal inflammaton and intestinal blockages.
4. Abdominal noise
Going to lectures or recitals can be difficult for IBD patients when their guts get noisy. Due to increased intestinal water and gas, their guts can create quite a commotion.
5. Weight loss
Though this might sound like a positive thing, it’s not for IBD patients. Weight loss in IBD can be caused by several factors: inability to absorb nutrients, lack of appetite and the presence of severe inflammation. Weight loss can sometimes become severe.
6. Mucus in stool
Mucus is produced by cells of the intestine to protect the inner intestinal wall from too much contact with the inner fecal matter. During inflammation, more mucus is produced than usual. It can sometimes be seen as a whitish fluid mixed in with the stool.
7. Blood in stool
When inflammation in the intestines is severe, ulcers form, which when irritated can release blood. Blood can sometimes be seen mixed in with the stool. Very dark stools are sometimes also an indication of blood.
Due to the severe systemic inflammation caused in IBD. Inflammation can present itself in other areas of the body. Approximately 25% of IBD patients develop painful, swollen joints.
9. Skin disorders
Like arthritis above, the skin is also a common victim in IBD. Skin issues like eczema and sensitive dry skin develop in about 20% of the patients.
10. Eye inflammation
Another very common extra-intestinal manifestation is inflammation in the eye. The eye sometimes becomes red and inflamed in 10% of the patients.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
- Molodecky NA, Soon IS, Rabi DM, Ghali WA, Ferris M, Chernoff G, Benchimol EI, Panaccione R, Ghosh S, Barkema HW, Kaplan GG. Increasing incidence and prevalence of the inflammatory bowel diseases with time, based on systematic review. Gastroenterology. 2012 Jan;142(1):46-54.e42; quiz e30. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2011.10.001. Epub 2011 Oct 14.
- Probert CS. Role of faecal gas analysis for the diagnosis of IBD. Biochem Soc Trans. 2011 Aug;39(4):1079-80. doi: 10.1042/BST0391079.
- Staff. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). April 14, 2013
- Staff. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Arthritis. April 14, 2013
- Staff. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Eye Complications. April 14, 2013