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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)


Common symptoms

The most common gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) include:

  • pain and cramping in the belly
  • diarrhea
  • blood in the stool
  • bleeding from the rectum or anus
  • bloating
  • gas
  • nausea or vomiting
  • pain and swelling in the anal area
  • a sore around the anus with or without pus draining

IBD can also cause symptoms in the rest of the body, including:

  • fatigue
  • poor appetite
  • loss of muscle and strength
  • losing weight without meaning to
  • fever
  • anemia (low iron)
  • sores in the mouth
  • joint pain
  • irritated eyes
  • irritated skin

Some symptoms are more common in people with Crohn’s disease and some symptoms are more common in people with ulcerative colitis.

Treatments and medicines can help prevent and reduce symptoms caused by IBD.

Remission and flares

People with IBD will go through periods where their GI tract is not inflamed. During this time, they usually have no symptoms. These periods are often called “being in remission.”

People with IBD will also go through periods where the inflammation in their GI tract is worse. During this time, their symptoms often get worse. These periods are called flares and may also be called “having active disease.” It is possible to have a flare and to feel no symptoms at all. Because a flare refers to increased inflammation of the GI tract and not just worsening symptoms, it is also possible to have symptoms and not be in a flare.

It can be hard to predict what may cause a flare. Triggers for flares can be different for everyone with IBD. Stress, changes to diet, and stopping treatments are all common triggers for flares.

Treatments and medicines​ are used to reduce flares and help heal the GI tract.


People with IBD can develop other health problems from their disease, called complications. These complications can be inside of the GI tract or outside of the GI tract

Complications inside of the GI tract include:

  • Fistulas: A tunnel that forms between parts of the intestine or between a part of the intestine and the skin or other organs.
  • Abscesses: When the tunnel formed by a fistula fills with fluid and becomes infected.
  • Adhesions: Scar tissue that sticks the intestine to the abdominal wall or another organ. Adhesions can cause the intestine to twist and become blocked.
  • Strictures: Scar tissue in the abdominal wall that causes the intestine to narrow.
  • Bowel obstruction: A blockage in the intestine. Bowel obstructions are often caused by strictures and adhesions.
  • Anal fissures: A small tear or sore in the lining of the anus. Anal fissures can cause sharp pain and blood when having a bowel movement.
  • Hemorrhoids​: Swollen blood vessels in the anal area, which can cause soreness, itching, and bleeding when having a bowel movement.

Complications outside of the GI tract are called extraintestinal manifestations. The extraintestinal manifestations in Crohn’s disease and the extraintestinal manifestations in ulcerative colitis are similar, although some complications may occur more frequently depending on the type of disease you have. Common extraintestinal manifestations that may affect you if you have IBD are:

The extraintestinal manifestations of IBD can be prevented and treated. You may need to visit a specialist to treat extraintestinal manifestations.

Learn more about complications and extraintestinal manifestations associated with IBD.

Monitoring symptoms

The symptoms of IBD can be different for everyone and your symptoms can change over time. To help your healthcare provider best understand your disease, it is important to keep track of your IBD symptoms between appointments.

There are many different ways to track your symptoms. You may want to try a few methods to see which one you like best. Some common ways to track new symptoms or changes to your existing symptoms include:

  • writing down symptom information in a notebook or binder
  • writing down symptom information in your phone, like in the notes app
  • using an app such as MyGut
  • keeping track of symptoms in a symptom diary​
  • using the symptom tracker built into MyAHS Connect​

No matter how you track your symptoms, bring the record of your symptoms to your appointment so you can share it with your healthcare provider.​​​​

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