The link between flare-ups and symptoms
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A flare is when your IBD becomes worse due to inflammation. Each flare is different, and your symptoms and their severity may vary.
Symptoms are not always reflective of the degree of inflammation. Sometimes during a flare you might not have symptoms at all. Other times, you may have pain and/or symptoms when there is actually no inflammation that can be identified using testing procedures such as an endoscopy, or blood or stool tests.
There are also complications of chronic inflammation within the GI tract, which include fistulas (tunnels forming through parts of the intestine), abscesses (infection caused by a fistula), adhesions (scar tissue), stricture (narrowing of the intestine), or blockage/obstruction of the intestine.
For more information, please visit our Complications section.
Reducing flares and healing the gut
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People with Crohn’s or colitis usually need to take a medication (or combination of medications) that targets their inflammation. This can help to achieve intestinal mucosal healing and reduce flares. Common medications for IBD include 5-ASAs, immunomodulators, steroids, biologics and biosimilars. Learn more about these medications in our Treatment section.
If you are experiencing flare-like symptoms, you may have inflammation in your GI tract, and your current medication may not be effective. Health care providers use a combination of tests on a routine basis to determine if your disease is active (gut inflammation) and check the effectiveness of your treatment.
These tests can include blood and stool tests (e.g., fecal calprotectin), endoscopy and/or imaging (e.g., ultrasound or MRI). Speak to your health care provider or IBD specialist for more information.
Tracking symptoms of IBD
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It may be helpful to track your symptoms to determine if they are getting worse or more frequent, and if there are new symptoms. With this information, you and your health care provider may be able to better identify what triggers your flare-ups and your response to treatment.
Digital applications or journals can be used to track daily symptoms and help report back to your physician. It is important to note each symptom and its frequency (how many times in the day), duration (how long it lasts), intensity or severity (mild, moderate, severe; rating on a scale of 0 to 10), and the interference or impact it has on your ability to do general activities (e.g., work, school, exercise, social engagements).
Download Crohn's and Colitis Canada's MyGut app to track symptoms of IBD including fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, pain and more. It can also be used to log your diet and potential trigger foods that may be contributing to your symptoms or flare-ups. This information can then be easily shared with your health care providers during your appointment.