Crohn’s Disease: Symptoms, Causes and Complications

Dr. Mirza Ilyas

2 min read

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that falls under the umbrella of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), a set of conditions that cause bowel and digestive tract inflammation. Unlike most chronic conditions, the greater number of Crohn’s affectees lie within the 15-35 age range. Book an appointment with a top gastroenterologist in Pakistan to get further guidance on Crohn’s disease.

Affected Areas:

Although Crohn’s disease can cause inflammation anywhere within the Gastrointestinal (GI) tract from the mouth to the anus, it often manifests in the ileum (the last part of the small intestine), colon (part of the large intestine), or as intermittent patches throughout the GI tract. In rare cases, the disease may also affect the eyes, skin, and joints.

Symptoms:

Common signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Night sweats
  • Bloody stool
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Abnormal menstrual cycle
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Urgent need for bowel movement
  • Pain or discharge near or around the anus
  • Inflamed skin, eyes and joints
  • Inflamed liver or bile duct
  • Delayed sexual development in children

Note: The condition appears in two phases: remission (rest phase) and flare-ups. Patients will experience the above symptoms only during a flare, with severity ranging from mild-severe.

Types:

Depending upon the location, Crohn’s Disease is divided into the following types:

  1. Ileocolitis: targets the ends of both the large and small intestine, i.e. the colon and ileum, respectively; with specific symptoms being diarrhea, weight loss, and pain or cramps in the middle of the lower abdomen.
  2. Ileitis: as its name suggests, causes inflammation specifically in the ileum. Symptoms of the condition are the same as Ileocolitis.
  3. Jejunoileitis: manifests as inflamed patches in the upper half of the small intestine aka the Jejunum; and is characterised by severe diarrhea and mild-strong abdominal cramping and pain after eating.
  4. Gastroduodenal Crohn’s Disease: affects the duodenum (first part of the small intestine) and the stomach, hence leading to nausea, vomiting, reduced appetite, and weight loss.
  5. Crohn’s Colitis: affects only one part of the large intestine, i.e. the colon. It causes rectal bleeding, diarrhea, and abscesses, fistulas, and ulcers around the anus.

Causes:

While the exact cause is unknown, researchers believe that inflammation occurs when cells in the digestive tract are targeted by the immune system while fighting against external viruses or bacteria in the GI tract. An imbalance in the gut bacteria and a previous bacterial stomach infection may also cause Crohn’s Disease. Other possible contributing factors include smoking, certain Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS) like diclofenac sodium and ibuprofen and living in an industrialized or urban area.

Complications:

While the condition itself is not life-threatening, complications arising from under- or no treatment can be fatal:

  • Malnutrition due to loss of appetite and nutrients resulting from frequent bouts of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain and cramping along with diarrhea may cause iron or B-12 deficiency anemia in some individuals. A vitamin D deficiency can also lead to Osteoporosis or Osteopenia.
  • Kidney stones may also form as a result of Ileitis, Jejunoileitis, and Gastroduodenal Crohn’s Disease.
  • Certain Immunosuppressants and Corticosteroids for Crohn’s treatment increase the risk of skin cancer, lymphoma, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, and hypertension.
  • Bowel Obstruction is the gradual scarring and narrowing of the bowel wall. This can block the flow of digestive juices, and often requires surgical removal of the affected part of the bowel.
  • Fistulas are ulcers that have moved beyond their origin point to form an abnormal passage between the intestine and the skin, or even other organs. This can result in spillage and mixing of organ contents with each other. They commonly form around the anus, in the abdomen, and sometimes in the bladder or vagina. While a medical emergency on its own, fistulas that form abscesses following infection are life-threatening.
  • Anal Fissures are small, easily infected tears in the lining of the anus or the surrounding skin that cause painful bowel movements and often lead to fistula formation.
  • Colon Cancer is a possible outcome of the colon-affecting Ileocolitis or Crohn’s Colitis, and therefore requires regular, early, colon cancer screenings.

An early diagnosis can make a huge difference in treatment results, So, if you experience consistent diarrhea, blood in your stool, an unexplained prolonged fever that does not respond to OTC medication, or other Crohn’s symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. You can also book an appointment with a top Gastroenterologist in Islamabad, Karachi and Multan through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your gastric concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Mirza Ilyas - Author Dr. Nyla Shafiq Chaudhry is among the Best Psychiatrists in Lahore. Dr. Nyla Shafiq Chaudhry is a Psychiatrist. She has a MBBS, MCPS (Psychiatry), DMP and MD (USA) degree along with an experience of 24 years. She is also a member of Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC).