The subject I want to touch on today is the complications and side effects of Crohn’s disease. For me, I get many different major and minor issues caused by my disease. Recognizing that everyone living with Crohn’s is different, this is an overview of what affects me and strategies I use to deal with them.
Crohn’s is an auto-immune disease where due to unknown causes; the body is confused and attacks the good or bad bacteria within the intestinal tract causing inflammation. This causes many immune related side effects. Before I go into medication related side effects (in Part 2), I want to touch on Crohn’s related side effects.
Crohn’s Disease Related Symptoms and Side Effects (Part 1)
For me, due to the length and location of sections of small intestine damaged by Crohn’s, I cannot absorb certain types of vitamins/nutrients. Different parts of the intestine absorb different nutrients. This leaves me extremely deficient in certain vitamins. I am anemic and cannot easily absorb iron through food. I take iron supplements but they are not easily absorbed by my damaged intestinal tract. I do not get iron injections because of the severity of side effects. This causes one of my most prominent and troublesome symptoms which is chronic fatigue. Being anemic leaves me exhausted and tired all the time. Dependant on how low my iron level is and how my immune system is running, I need much more sleep than the average person. Along with being iron deficient, I am also always low in vitamin B12. One of the key functions of the ileum is to primarily absorb B12. The ileum is my most actively diseased section of bowel, constantly leaving me deficient in B12 and very low on energy. I get B12 injections once a month to fight the deficiency with no observed side effects.
Other deficiencies for me include calcium and vitamin D. Since my first major injury at 13 years old, I have broken/fractured my legs 3 separate times, along with less serious fractures on my wrist, arm and thumb. Most recently in 2011, my surgeon said I had mild osteoporosis when I broke my Tibia/Fibula which may have been related to my deficiencies. I have had so many broken bones; it is hard to believe that the breaks were not a result of Crohn’s disease. The best way I deal with deficiencies is to follow my doctors’ recommendations and be sure to take my vitamins consistently, whether I am convinced that I absorb them or not.