Can inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affect other parts of my body?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can cause a number of problems outside of the digestive tract.

  • Anemia: red blood cells, which carry oxygen to organs, is below normal. This can make a person feel very tired.
  • Arthritis and joint pain
  • Weak bones and bone breaks
  • Inflammation in the eye and other eye problems
  • Liver inflammation
  • Gallstones
  • Red bumps or ulcers on the skin
  • Kidney stones
  • Delayed puberty and growth problems (in children and teens)
  • In rare cases, lung problems

Some of these problems are caused by poor absorption of nutrients. Others are due to inflammation in parts of the body other than the digestive tract.

Inflammatory bowel disease, as well as the surgery and medicines used to treat it, can also affect your sex life. Sometimes, you may just feel too tired to have sex. You may also have emotional issues related to the disease. Even though it may be embarrassing, it is important to talk to your doctor if you are having sexual problems.

Some women with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) feel worse right before and during their menstrual periods as well. Diarrhea, abdominal pain, and other symptoms can be more severe during these times. Women with IBD and their doctors should keep track of these monthly changes in symptoms. This will prevent over treating the disease.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease can cause bleeding in the GI tract, which may lead to anemia (a loss of red blood cells resulting in extreme tiredness or fatigue). Both conditions can also cause nausea, vomiting, fever, weight loss (because the intestines may not be able to absorb enough nutrients from food), joint pain, and skin problems.

Sexual and relationship health of people living with IBD may be influenced by the disease itself and/or by the medical and surgical interventions used in treatment. People with IBD may lose control over their bowel movements, which may cause embarrassment and low self-esteem. In addition, an ileostomy bag may interfere with sexual positions or cause embarrassment. People with IBD and their partners may benefit from sexual counseling.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.