The Vast and Varied Complications of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The Vast and Varied Complications of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

In 2018, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada released a report on the impact of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in Canada, the first wide-ranging look at IBD and its impact on Canada since 2012. Considering that Canada has one of the highest rates of IBD in the world, the report was invaluable. Unfortunately, few people in the general population actually know what IBD is, let alone Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

It’s estimated that approximately 270,000 Canadians live with IBD, and that number is only expected to rise. By 2030, the report suggests that the number of Canadians affected will rise to 400,000 people, roughly 1% of the entire population. The study also suggests that the fastest growing group of Canadians diagnosed with IBD are senior citizens and that the prevalence of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in young children has increased nearly 50% over the past 10 years.

Some of the complications that can arise with Crohn’s disease include abscesses, sores, and fistulas. Repeated ulceration can also cause a blockage of the intestines due to swelling and scar tissue. All of this is made worse by incomplete healing of the bowels caused by frequent flare-ups. Meanwhile, colitis sufferers may see bleeding from ulcerations or a ruptured bowel. Both diseases put patients at risk of malnutrition and colon cancer.

For sufferers of Crohn’s disease, complications can arise even at the time of diagnosis. This can include growth failure in children, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune hepatitis, and liver disease. These specific complications are more commonly known as extra-intestinal manifestations of IBD, thought to be a result of inflammation spreading to other areas in the body. Sufferers of ulcerative colitis can experience many of the same complications, including failure of the usual medical regimens to effectively treat the condition. This happens when the body adjusts to certain medications, making them ineffective.

Some of the lesser-known complications can include things as seemingly simple as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or pneumonia, both of which are risks that increase with age and predominantly affect senior IBD sufferers. As a result of recurring UTIs, sometimes 3 or 4 times per year, cystitis becomes a genuine concern, exacerbated by growing fistulas.

Other potentially severe complications can affect the kidneys. Kidney stones are one of the more common kidney-related complications with IBD, particularly with Crohn’s patients. Of particular concern are uric acid stones, a type of kidney stone made of pure uric acid crystals, caused by increased uric acid absorption in the injured colon. Hydronephrosis, the obstruction of one of the ureters, is another concern

If you or someone you know is suffering from IBD, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, know that there are resources available. Crohn’s and Colitis Canada have put together a wealth of information for affected Canadians, including the 2018 report. From webinars and education events to support groups and summer camps for affected children, you don’t have to feel alone.


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