Symptoms of Crohn's disease
Signs and symptoms of Crohn's disease can range from mild to severe and may develop gradually or come on suddenly, without warning. Commonly reported symptoms of Crohn's disease include pain in the abdomen and diarrhea. Children with the disease may experience growth problems. Other problems can include intestinal blockage and malnutrition.
The range and severity of Crohn's disease symptoms varies from person to person. The course of Crohn's disease also varies greatly. You may have long periods without signs and symptoms, or you may have recurrent episodes of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and sometimes fever or rectal bleeding. Symptoms of Crohn's disease include:
Abscesses or fistulas - Inflammation caused by Crohn's disease can affect neighbouring organs, such as the bladder or vagina, creating an abnormal connection called a "fistula". Fistulas can develop into an abscess that manifests as a swollen, pus-filled sore or that can move through your skin. Frequently, fistulas can occur near the anus, called a perianal fistula. Some people may even develop tears in the lining of the anus, called anal fissures.
Abdominal pain and cramping - Inflammation and ulceration may cause the walls of the bowel to swell and thicken with scar tissue. This affects the normal movement of intestinal tract contents through your digestive tract and may lead to pain and cramping. Cramping and pain ranges from mild to severe.
Blood in the stool - You might notice bright-red blood on toilet paper, in the toilet bowl or darker blood mixed with your stool. This happens because food can cause inflamed tissue to bleed, or your bowel may bleed on its own. Occult blood, or blood that you cannot see, is also possible. In severe cases of Crohn's disease, bleeding can be serious and ongoing.
Diarrhea - GI tract inflammation can cause cells in the intestine to secrete large amounts of water and salt. Because the colon can't completely absorb this excess fluid, you develop diarrhea. Bowel movements can range from simple loose stools to frequent, watery bowel movements, multiple times a day, affecting both sleep and ordinary activities.
Reduced appetite and weight loss - Abdominal pain and cramping, and the inflammatory reaction in the wall of your bowel can affect both your appetite and your ability to digest and absorb food.
Ulcers - What begins as small, scattered sores on the surface of the intestine, can develop into large ulcers that penetrate deep into the intestinal walls. You may notice ulcers in your mouth similar to canker sores (aphthous ulcers).
Other signs and symptoms
People with severe Crohn's disease may also experience problems that occur outside the digestive tract. These include:
When to seek help
Although Crohn's disease usually isn't fatal, it's a serious disease that, in some cases, may cause life-threatening complications. See your doctor if you have persistent changes in your bowel habits or if you have any of the signs and symptoms of Crohn's disease, such as:
Symptoms of Crohn's disease range from mild to severe. Because Crohn's is a chronic disease, periods of flare-ups are followed by times of remission -- periods in which symptoms disappear or decrease and good health returns. In general, though, people with Crohn's disease can lead full, active, and productive lives. If you suspect that you are experiencing Crohn's disease, or want to know how to diagnose crohn disease continue reading.