Crohn’s Disease Health: Physical Effects

Crohn’s Disease Health: Physical Effects


Editor’s note: In this series, “Crohn’s Disease Health,” Mary Horsley writes about mental and physical health in relation to IBD, and how unreliable it can be. In the second of three columns, she focuses on the physical nature of Crohn’s disease. Find part one here.

It’s more than frustrating making and breaking plans, and it is never fun to miss out. Trust that we chronic illness warriors want to keep our plans with you. Everyone I know with a chronic illness struggles with making plans for fear of having to cancel them and let others down.

Sometimes, we can’t avoid it. Sometimes, we have to give in and listen to our bodies, because no one knows it better than ourselves.

Beyond the belly and bathroom, Crohn’s disease and IBD can affect your entire body, inside and out. The physical problems patients suffer often happen without warning and they can easily change your plans immediately. See my “Beyond the Bathroom” series and my “Crohn’s Complicationsseries. 

These symptoms or problems are sometimes as inconvenient as the diseases themselves and can lead to other illnesses and unreliable health. These symptoms, how you feel, how you look, and what happens to you, every aspect can change your day-to-day plans when living with IBD.

braceHow you feel ― pain 

With some illnesses, pain is the symptom that leads us to see a doctor in the first place. With Crohn’s disease and IBD, inflammation in the inside can lead to feeling ill on the outside.

Some patients suffer back pain and joint pain, arthritis, and gallstones. Some suffer pain in their bowels or rectums, their skin or their nerves. Sometimes we have to cancel plans and take a day, and sometimes there is nothing we can do to help it. The pain can be unpredictable and while one moment can be seen as fine, the next could be a trip to another doctor.

Sometimes, my stomach is so unfriendly that I get clammy and pale and lightheaded. Sometimes I just feel wrong. I know if I start to get a migraine and I don’t take medicine on time, then it is already too late and I can guarantee I will suffer.

How you look ― appearance

While pain and accidents are somewhat visible, outside appearances can be affected by Crohn’s and IBD, too. From skin sores and open wounds to mouth ulcers and canker sores, as well as different types of acne, tender lumps on the lower legs, and even dramatic weight loss and malnutrition — all of these can occur. Crohn’s disease and IBD not only create an unhealthy digestive tract, but also they can create what can be deemed as an unhealthy outward appearance.

I have suffered skin problems since my IBD began, with weight juggling and open sores on and in my mouth. These symptoms can create a self-consciousness about oneself, and sometimes even I get embarrassed at what my skin and body look like. There have even been times I have canceled plans because of it.

When outward appearance starts to become a representation of the internal health, when problems come to the surface, maintaining confidence or keeping plans can be difficult. The outside appearance of visible illness can create another element of unreliability.

But we must remember that we cannot control how our Crohn’s and IBD manifests, sometimes we all have bad skin days.

What happens to you ― accidents

As much as our bodies can be unreliable, so can our bowels. Sometimes accidents happen, urgency strikes at a most inconvenient time and there’s nothing that can be done. Fearing accidents or fearing an embarrassing moment can lead to living in constant worry of public outings or get-togethers.

Incontinence with IBD is nothing to be ashamed of; it has happened to me more than once. Although it is hard and never fun to deal with, we must remember that it is not our fault. Rather, it’s just another way our bodies and inflammation affect our diseases’ making us unreliable. We must remember that we cannot control how our Crohn’s and IBD manifests, sometimes we have accidents.

If we are having a bad day or a day spent in our bathrooms, we more than likely know what the rest of the day will entail, including sometimes having to cancel plans last-minute.

We are not unreliable, but our IBD is. Canceling plans does not make us unreliable, but rather our energy level is. Staying home does not make us unreliable, but rather our health is. Taking care of ourselves should come first.

With each physical problem, IBD takes a toll on your body and on your mental health, too. The next article will focus on the mental health aspect of chronic illness, and how Crohn’s disease can affect your life in many different ways.

I cannot offer medical advice, I can only share what I know from my personal experiences. Remember, my Crohn’s disease is individual for me, and what works for me may not necessarily work for you.

For me, It Could Be Worse.

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Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.

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