What Is A Crohn's Flare-Up And What Does It Feel Like?

Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract (via Cleveland Clinic). Symptoms of Crohn's disease can be painful and at times, debilitating. Individuals living with the condition will often go between fluctuating periods of severe symptoms, called flare-ups, and periods of remission when they have little to no symptoms. 

During a flare-up, a person may experience chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, fever, fatigue, weight loss and loss of appetite, anal fissures, and anal fistulas. These symptoms can vary in severity and may come on gradually over time or all at once (via Healthline). There's no way to know how long a flare-up will last but it may be a matter of days, weeks, or even months. Science has yet to determine what exactly causes Crohn's flare-ups but potential reasons include chronic stress, infections, use of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), smoking tobacco, use of antibiotics, and changes or disruptions of medications.

How to treat a Crohn's flare-up

Treatment for Crohn's disease varies depending on the individual. People with Crohn's should work with their doctor to develop a treatment plan that is best for them. According to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, common treatments for Crohn's disease include the use of antibiotics, corticosteroids, biologics, and immunomodulators. During a flare-up, antidiarrheal medications like loperamide, or Imodium A-D, can help control diarrhea. Sometimes, surgery is needed.

While there's no evidence that diet causes Crohn's flare-ups, certain foods may worsen symptoms, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. Trigger foods differ from person to person. It's a good idea to keep a journal logging your diet and symptoms to go over with your doctor to figure out which foods make you feel worse than others.

It's not always possible to prevent flare-ups, but there are some things you can do to optimize your health. These include taking medication as prescribed, maintaining a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, not smoking tobacco, and finding ways to cope with stress. Talk to your doctor about any changes in symptoms to see if your treatment plan needs to be altered.