Not Your Typical Crohn's Flare
Last updated: June 2023
I have had MANY Crohn's flares, yet no 2 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 and 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.
Ending up in the ER
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 2 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 air conditioning and was still freezing.
After having some soup and taking Motrin when I got home, my temperature would not drop below 103F 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 third biologic (Cimzia) upon being discharged.
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