Not Your Typical Crohn's Flare
I have had MANY Crohn’s flares, yet no two have been alike. And, furthermore, they did not reveal themselves as a “typical” Crohn’s flare. While most people experience extreme stomach cramping and diarrhea, often accompanied by blood, I (knock on wood) have never had that.
While I am fortunate to not have experienced bloody stool in the 10 years of having Crohn’s disease, I have experienced other symptoms that one may not immediately recognize as a flare, thus avoiding the doctor or ER. Below are the symptoms I experienced that were a Crohn’s flare but appeared to be anything but that at first.
Extreme bloating & fatigue during a Crohn's flare
Ladies, that sounds like a normal period, right? Well, maybe not.
I had felt extremely bloated and fatigued for a few weeks when I decided to call my doctor to see if anything was up with my body. (But first, let me disclose that this was my first Crohn’s flare, so I was naive to the fact that it could be presented in any other way than chronic diarrhea.) The only reason I had called my GI to address the extreme bloating- think looking 4 months pregnant whenever I ate something— was because I was going to Florida for the long weekend with my girlfriends and didn’t want to wear a bikini looking like that.
Well, folks, vanity saved my life because my GI instructed me to go to the nearest emergency room where a CT scan was done and concluded that I had a golfball-size abscess on my small intestine. I was then hospitalized for 3 weeks, put on bowel rest, and given antibiotics until the abscess reabsorbed into my body. A few weeks after being discharged, I started my first biologic, Remicade, and that was where the journey began.
Relentless vomiting as a symptom of a flare
Sounds like the stomach bug, right? Wrong again.
I had been endlessly vomiting for two days when I called my GI to report it, thinking it was just a stomach bug, but another trip to the ER and a CT scan later revealed that I was experiencing a Crohn’s flare. The amount of inflammation had made food difficult to pass through my small intestine, thus leaving only one way for the food to exit. I was admitted to the hospital for a week for bowel rest (again) and antibiotics (again) changed my biologic to Humira and was on my way...for a few more months.
Joint pain and fever can occur with a flare
Sounds like the flu, right? But, it wasn’t.
I remember sitting at a client meeting and just before we ended, it felt like someone threw the heaviest, coldest blanket over my shoulders. I immediately got the chills and aches and pains all over my back. I felt like I could barely lift my arms and was crawling through concrete on my way to the car. It was a hot day in mid-June and I was driving home with all of the windows closed and no a/c and was still freezing. After having some soup and taking Motrin when I got home, my temperature would not drop below 103 F and my body aches had not subsided (it actually hurt to lay down in bed).
I had assumed it was just the flu, but decided not to take any chances and headed to the ER where (you guessed it) a CT scan diagnosed it as a Crohn’s flare. My white blood cell count was through the roof and the amount of inflammation from my disease was just radiating through my body. I was miserable, in pain, and admitted for a few days and put on my 3rd biologic (Cimzia) upon being discharged.
An additional symptom I've experienced is lower right back pain. Read more about that in an upcoming article.
Does exercising regularly help in the management of your symptoms?