Crohn's Disease

  • Medical Author: Adam Schoenfeld, MD
  • Medical Author: George Y. Wu, MD, PhD
  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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Quick GuideCrohn's Disease Causes, Symptoms, Diet

Crohn's Disease Causes, Symptoms, Diet

What are the complications of Crohn's disease?

Complications of Crohn's disease may be related or unrelated to the inflammation within the intestine. Intestinal complications of Crohn's disease include:

  • obstruction and perforation of the small intestine,
  • abscesses (collections of pus),
  • fistulae, and
  • intestinal bleeding.

Massive distention or dilatation of the colon (megacolon), and rupture (perforation) of the intestine are potentially life-threatening complications. Both generally require surgery, but, fortunately, these two complications are rare. Recent data suggest that there is an increased risk of cancer of the small intestine and colon in patients with long-standing Crohn's disease.

Extra-intestinal complications involve the skin, joints, spine, eyes, liver, and bile ducts.

Skin involvement includes painful red raised spots on the legs (erythema nodosum) and an ulcerating skin condition generally found around the ankles called pyoderma gangrenosum.

Painful eye conditions (uveitis, episcleritis) can cause visual difficulties.

Arthritis can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints of the extremities.

Inflammation of the low back (sacroiliac joint arthritis) and of the spine (ankylosing spondylitis) can cause pain and stiffness of the spine.

Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) or bile ducts (primary sclerosing cholangitis) also can occur. Sclerosing cholangitis causes narrowing and obstruction of the bile ducts draining the liver and can lead to yellow skin (jaundice), recurrent bacterial infections, and liver cirrhosis with liver failure. Sclerosing cholangitis with liver failure is one of the reasons for performing liver transplantation. It also is frequently complicated by the development of cancer of the bile ducts. Patients with Crohn's disease might also suffer from an increased tendency to form blood clots (hypercoagulability).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/4/2015

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