Blood Clot Alert: The Hidden Risk for IBD Patients on Steroid Therapy

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a severe inflammation of the digestive tract that not only causes discomfort but also increases your odds of developing a dangerous blood clot. What’s more alarming is that some of the medications prescribed for IBD can further raise your blood clot risk.

IBD encompasses various conditions, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. If you’re grappling with IBD and your healthcare provider administers corticosteroid therapy, research from the University of Michigan reveals that your chances of experiencing a venous thromboembolism (a blood clot in a deep vein) increases by five times. This type of clot can ultimately lead to a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, which is a severe blockage in one of the arteries connected to the lungs.

Safer Alternatives Exist

Fortunately, there are safer alternative therapies for IBD out there. One such option is biologics — treatments designed specifically to reduce the inflammation leading to IBD. Biologics are considered not only effective but also safer than corticosteroid therapy.

Peter D.R. Higgins, a researcher at the University of Michigan, explains that corticosteroid use, “either alone or in combination with biologics, substantially increases the rate of venous thromboembolic events. This was strikingly different from the patients who were on biologics alone, who had a significantly lower rate of events.” He further emphasizes that venous thromboembolism is common in individuals with IBD and can result in significant morbidity, increased death, and high rates of recurrent blood clots.

The team of scientists from Michigan conducted an analysis involving over 15,000 IBD patients who underwent treatment with corticosteroids alone or a combination of both biologics and corticosteroids. The results showed that the combination therapy with corticosteroids and biologics presented nearly the same risk as corticosteroids alone. This outcome validates the conclusion that corticosteroids increase the likelihood of venous thromboembolism.

Symptoms of IBD and Blood Clots

Symptoms of IBD can vary among individuals and can range from mild to severe. Some common signs of IBD include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stool, and fatigue. At times, symptoms may flare up and then disappear entirely. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect you have IBD. Together, you can discuss your diagnosis and the most suitable treatment plan.

Warning signs of blood clots include pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected area, usually the leg. Because blood clots can become so dangerous, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical care if any of these indicators are present alongside IBD symptoms.

Prevention and Risk Reduction

While there are treatments available to successfully manage IBD, a combination of lifestyle changes and medications is often the best course of action to prevent complications. Incorporating a healthy diet, regular exercise, stress reduction, and sufficient sleep can go a long way in maintaining overall well-being and reducing the risk of blood clots. In addition, opting for biologic treatments over corticosteroid therapy can further safeguard against blood clot formation.

The Key Takeaway

If you or someone you know is living with IBD, it’s crucial to be aware of the risks associated with certain treatments, specifically corticosteroid therapy. Blood clots can be life-threatening, so staying informed and discussing alternative treatments like biologics can ensure that you receive the safest and most effective care. Embrace a healthy, balanced lifestyle to maintain your overall health and reduce the risk of complications related to IBD.