Crohn's Disease Symptoms

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease are mainly those involving the gastrointestinal tract.

The symptoms range from mild to severe depending on the intensity of inflammation, stage of the disease, presence of remission or on the part of the intestine that is affected.

Remission and flare ups

There may be long periods lasting for weeks or months when symptoms are mild or absent. This is called the remission phase.

The periods when symptoms are exaggerated and are more troublesome are periods termed as flare ups.

Common symptoms of Crohn’s disease

Some of the common symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:-

  • Recurring episodes of diarrhea. There may be remission phases and normal bowel movements interspersed with periods of moderate to severe diarrhea
  • There may be presence of mucus and/or blood in stool. Severe bleeding in stools is less common and when this occurs there may be presence of anemia due to blood loss.
  • There may be severe abdominal pain that is typically described as cramping in nature. The pain is aggravated after intake of food.
  • Over a period of time Crohn’s disease leads to malnutrition and this may lead to severe fatigue.
  • An unexplained weight loss along with periods of diarrhea may be one of the earliest symptoms of this condition. Weight loss may be the result of inability to absorb nutrients from food or due to suppression of appetite due to symptoms of pain and diarrhoea.
  • Some persons may experience nausea and vomiting.
  • Some individuals also report with high rise of temperature or fever (38°C or 100°F) due to inflammatory reactions.
  • There may be joint swelling and pain as well as redness and warmth over the affected joint. This is part of the inflammatory process.
  • Associated inflammation of eyes leading to uveitis, inflammation and irritation of the iris is also commonly seen.
  • There may be presence of skin rashes.
  • Some patients present with persistent mouth ulcers.

Which parts of the gastrointestinal tract does Crohn’s disease affect?

Crohn’s disease may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. This includes:-

  • End of the small intestine or the ileum or ileocaecal joint - this is a common form of Crohn’s Disease. The pain is usually localized in the lower right side of the abdomen. Diarrhea is common but blood in stools is rare. Watery diarrhea may be seen due to non absorption of the bile salts.
  • Small intestine – the commonest symptoms include abdominal pain and diarrhea.
  • Colon - Crohn’s Disease only in the colon or large bowel is often called Crohn’s Colitis. One of the commonest symptoms of this type of Crohn’s disease is bloody diarrhea. There may be frequent bowel movements (six or more times a day) with increased urge to defecate.
  • Around the anus - Crohn’s disease around the anus can occur on its own or in combination with other sites. There may be additional features of fissures, skin tags, abscesses and fistulas that complicate this condition.
  • A less common area affected is the upper gastrointestinal tract including oesophagus, stomach or duodenum or oral cavity (mouth). These have symptoms including pain, nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss. Within the mouth it may cause painful ulcers and swelling of the lips and face.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Mar 7, 2013

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