Crohn's Attacks: What they feel like, What triggers them, How to help.
Crohn's attacks are incredibly scary and painful experiences for IBD fighters, they are a very sudden increase in symptoms, often bleeding of the ulcers, severe inflammation of the intestines, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and extreme exhaustion. They can lead to a flare up, which results in having to be treated by steroids for a few months. However, if caught and treated fast enough, it may only be a short term struggle. They can be triggered by stress and anxiety, trigger foods that your stomach cannot break down and other environmental factors. I have experienced 2 and both have ended with hospitalization.
My first Crohn’s Attack was in the middle of a flare up, before my diagnosis. I had been going through a bad symptoms for a few months between October to December and on Christmas day after a build up of stress, and trying to eat food for the first time in weeks, I had a painful Crohn’s Attack during the night that landed me in Hospital. Sadly, it worsened my flare up, and I was admitted to a bowel ward. This Crohn’s attack had caused an extreme increase in my CRP inflammation levels, which caused so much pressure on my body that it began to shut down and hence I was put on a very strong dose of steroids to bring it down in order to prevent any of my organs begging affected and going into failure.
My more recent Crohn’s Attack I suffered from was only a few weeks ago, it was triggered by a stressful event caused by some unnecessary upset that could have been avoided. I went from feeling totally normal to experiencing a sharp stabbing pain in my upper and lower back, lower abdomen and upper stomach, I had extreme pain in my ribs when breathing , and was very sick. At this point I was on a liquid diet of Modulen, so no food had impacted the attack. But nevertheless, my digestive system went into spasm and got rid of everything in my stomach and intestines. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t get up easily, and struggles to grip things. I started to bloat massively as my inflammation in my intestines increased and my entire stomach was like a rock as it was in full spasm. We called an ambulance and I was given a very high dosage of morphine and anti sickness. Luckily for me it didn’t trigger a terrible flare up, I was prescribed dihydrocodeine, which is a painkiller to help with the spasm. This Crohn’s attack caused was a sudden increase in my WBC which attacked my gut and caused ulcers, hence the pain. However, It hadn't caused a sudden increase in CRP levels and hence I didn’t have to be admitted to a ward this time.
Crohn’s attacks and flare ups may not be preventable but they can be helped to become less severe. If you ever have a friend or family member who is suffering from a sudden Crohn's attack, or you notice a trigger that may cause one, here is a list of things you can do to help:
If they are in excruciating pain, call an ambulance and explain their condition, whether they are in remission or not and their current treatment plan.
Give them pain meds, starting with a simple paracetamol, avoiding ibuprofen because it causes Crohn's flare ups, and working the way up to dihydrocodeine. When they are in hospital or with paramedics they will be given morphine if nothing has helped.
Try to keep them calm so they do not panic, the more they stress the worst it will get. Being the light relief in a difficult situation can really help. Putting a smile on their face may be impossible at that moment but it will help them to relax.
Using a heat pack will relieve the pain and spasms in the back and stomach.
Keep them hydrated as Crohn's flares cause vomiting and diarrhoea which will rid their body for all liquid and hence they will get dehydrated. For Crohn's patients this is very dangerous as it shrinks your veins and then access to the blood stream is limited, which is sometimes essential to helping treat Crohn's attacks.
Not all Crohn's fighters will experience Crohn's Attacks, and some may be able to prevent them. But for those who do suffer from them it can be very scary and upsetting. It can cause a complication with treatment, so the best thing to do is to just try to stay as stress free as possible, do not let things get to you and avoid all trigger foods and dangerous foods at all costs when you are not in full remission.
Luce :) x