woman with advancing crohns

Crohn’s disease is a chronic, lifelong disorder that causes irritation and swelling in the lining of the digestive tract. If you have Crohn’s disease, you’ll likely go through periods of remission where the disease is inactive and you experience little or no symptoms. You’ll also likely experience flare-ups, or periods where disease symptoms are very active and can be severe.

Here are three signs that your Crohn’s disease is advancing:

You notice a change in symptoms

Some people with Crohn’s disease find that symptoms may progress or worsen over time or new symptoms may develop. This may be a sign that your condition is getting worse or you’re having a complication from Crohn’s disease.

Along with new or worsening symptoms, you may also notice complications related to your disease. These may or may not be connected to your digestive tract. 

Intestinal complications may include:

  • bowel obstructions
  • ulcers
  • fistulas
  • anal fissures
  • malnutrition

Other Crohn’s complications include:

  • eye pain, itchiness, or redness
  • mouth sores
  • joint swelling and pain
  • skin sores, bumps, or rashes
  • osteoporosis (brittle bones)
  • kidney stones

It’s important to speak with your doctor if you think your condition may be getting worse.

Your medications are no longer working

The goal of taking medications for Crohn’s disease is to achieve and maintain periods of remission. You may start to find that medications that once controlled your symptoms no longer seem to help. This could be a sign that your Crohn’s disease is progressing.

Each person’s Crohn’s disease is different, so you may need to try several different medications or combinations of medications before finding something that works for you. 

Most people will continue to take medications during periods of remission, even though they may not experience any symptoms. It’s important to keep taking your medications as prescribed. Stopping a medication can lead to a flare-up. 

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned that your medications are not working properly.

You show new signs of inflammation

If you or your doctor suspects new signs of inflammation, you may need to have an imaging test of your digestive tract. Chronic or long-term inflammation can cause lasting damage to the digestive tract. This can lead to malnutrition and other complications inside and outside of the intestine. 

Complications of Crohn’s disease tend to occur when intestinal inflammation is severe and widespread, or extends beyond the inner lining of the intestines.

In rare cases, a Crohn’s disease complication can become a medical emergency. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • You feel faint.
  • Your pulse feels faster or weaker than normal.
  • You have severe belly pain.
  • You have a high fever.
  • You have an intense or long-lasting bout of vomiting or diarrhea.

It’s important to keep seeing your doctor regularly, about every six months, even when you’re symptom-free and feeling good. Your doctor will continue to evaluate your digestive tract for signs of inflammation and damage to make sure you’re on the right track with your treatment plan.