Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects each person differently. The condition is characterized by periods of flare-ups and remissions. Flare-ups are active periods of the illness when you experience the symptoms, whereas remissions are periods when you remain symptom-free.
Crohn’s disease most commonly affects the small or large intestine, although it can affect any part of your body, from your mouth to the anus.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can range from mild to severe and can appear suddenly or start gradually.
Common warning signs (or symptoms) of Crohn’s disease include:
Other less common symptoms include:
- Persistent diarrhea
- Urgent need to move bowels
- Rectal bleeding (blood in your stool)
- A sensation of incomplete bowel evacuation
- Loss of appetite
In children, Crohn’s disease can manifest as delayed sexual growth or development.
If you or your child develop these signs and symptoms, only a doctor can fully diagnose you with Crohn’s disease. You may have another condition (and not Crohn’s) that is causing the symptoms. Schedule an appointment with your doctor for early diagnosis and treatment.
What are the complications of Crohn’s disease?
In severe cases, Crohn’s disease may cause complications that necessitate emergency surgery, including:
- Fissures: These are tears in your anus resulting in symptoms such as abdominal pain and blood in your stool during bowel movements.
- Anal fistula: Fistula is an abnormal connection that forms in the same organ or between two organs. It can also form between one part of the intestine and another or between the intestine and bladder, vagina or skin. It is most common in the anal area.
- Ulcers: Ulcers are open sores that can develop anywhere in your colon, including your anus.
- Strictures: Stricture is a narrowing of the intestine due to long-term inflammation.
- Bowel obstruction: Strictures in many parts of the bowel can block the flow of digestive contents through the organ in a condition known as bowel obstruction.
As Crohn’s disease progresses, you may develop other complications that affect your overall health and quality of life, which include:
- Mouth sores
- Skin disorders (bumps and rash)
- Arthritis (swollen and painful joints)
- Gallbladder disease
- Liver disease
- Kidney stones
- Redness or pain in the eyes
- Vision changes
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
- Loss of normal menstrual cycle
Since Crohn’s disease elevates your risk of colon cancer, ask your doctor whether you need to undergo screening tests for cancer and, if yes, how frequently.
How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?
Your doctor will inquire regarding your signs and symptoms and perform a physical examination. They will also take your family history and medical history into account.
To find out whether you have Crohn’s disease or another condition that is causing your symptoms, they will order tests that include:
- A rectal examination
- A stool test
- Blood tests
- A computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the abdominal area
- X-rays of the intestine
- Colonoscopy (inserting a thin, flexible tube fitted with a lighted camera into the colon through the anus)
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