Editor’s note: This is the second article in the “Crohn’s Complications” series by Mary Horsley. This series will focus on IBD-related complications beyond the symptoms. Read the first part of the series here.
In my latest series, “Crohn’s Complications,” I will write about the complications beyond the symptoms and focus on the more extreme medical emergencies that Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can induce. As mentioned in my “Beyond the Bathroom” series, and as many IBD patients can tell you, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are much more than just bathroom illnesses. Remember, each patient is unique in terms of symptoms and disease, and what may happen for others may not necessarily be your path, too.
Complications can happen with Crohn’s either through symptoms, sickness, or surgeries, with no two patients suffering exactly the same way. With Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, knowing when to go to the emergency room can be a struggle in itself, on top of the pains and problems you are already fighting through to begin with.
For some, going to the ER is not an option. Some patients refuse to go until they are forced or until they cannot take any more pain. The doctors, the nurses, the tests, the judgment, the endless questions, the confusion, and the dreaded answer that “nothing is wrong” after hours of waiting… For some, the tests and blood work showing nothing “wrong” happens by pure chance. For others, it takes numerous visits to the emergency room for something to be figured out.
Sometimes, even when the lab work or doctors find nothing, I still know my body better than they do. If I feel bad, if I notice something, I persist until someone, anyone, listens to me. Sometimes, tests are not as black and white or as right or wrong as they would appear.
For me, I know going to the ER can be challenging. I went to the emergency room week after week for quite some time. My lab work and tests never showed anything “wrong,” but I knew something was off. I vomited for months. I bled for longer. I hurt all over and yet I was “healthy” according to my tests. It wasn’t until I persisted and had more testing done that inflammation of my small bowel was discovered. I had CT scans and barium cocktails, and EKG scans when my chest pains started. More than one emergency room doctor pretty much blew me off because the lab work showed nothing significant. Nada, zip.
Are you bleeding? You could be anemic. Losing fluids, vomiting, body chills, and pain? You could be dehydrated with inflammation in your bowels. Stomach swollen or distended? You could have a partial or full obstruction. Suddenly extremely ill and faint, sweaty, lethargic? Sepsis or infection can occur and it can be deadly.
You cannot truly know until you see your physicians, and even then you may not find out. But you can at least rule out a few things that can occur with your Crohn’s disease, especially some of the other complications that I will discuss later, such as ostomies or obstruction surgeries.
So, when should you go to the ER? In my opinion, anytime you feel it is necessary you should make the trip. If you question whether or not you should go, I would say go. I cannot give medical advice, as much as I’d like to, but if you are like me, then you know your body and you know when something isn’t how it should be. I would much rather be safe than sorry with my Crohn’s disease. If something is not feeling right, then how I am I to know that something isn’t wrong or going awry without seeing someone? Because for me, I know It Could Be Worse.
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