Crohn’s disease

Crohn's disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system. It is a relatively uncommon condition. Crohn’s disease can affect people of all ages, including children.

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease

Symptoms vary, depending on which part of the digestive system is inflamed. Inflammation can affect any part of the digestive system, from the mouth to the back passage, but most commonly occurs in the last section of the small intestine (ileum) or the large intestine (colon).

Common symptoms include:

You may experience all or only one of the above. Some people experience severe symptoms, but others only have mild problems.

People with Crohn's disease sometimes go for long periods without symptoms or with very mild symptoms. This is known as remission. Remission can be followed by periods where symptoms flare up and become particularly troublesome.

Less common symptoms include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100F) or above
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • being sick (vomiting)
  • joint pain and swelling (arthritis)
  • inflammation and irritation of the eyes (uveitis)
  • areas of painful, red and swollen skin – most often on the legs
  • mouth ulcers

Children with Crohn's disease may grow at a slower rate than expected, because the inflammation can prevent the body absorbing nutrients from food.

Treating Crohn’s disease

There's currently no cure for Crohn's disease, but treatment can improve the symptoms.

The main aims of treatment are to:

  • reduce symptoms – known as inducing remission (remission is a period without symptoms)
  • maintain remission

In children, treatment also aims to promote healthy growth and development.

Your treatment will usually be provided by a range of healthcare professionals, including specialist doctors (such as gastroenterologists or surgeons), GPs and specialist nurses.

The treatment offered to reduce symptoms is usually a medication aimed at reducing inflammation, or the reducing the body’s immune response. In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove the inflamed section of intestine.

When to seek medical help

You should contact your GP if you have:

You should also see your GP if you're concerned about your child's development.

What causes Crohn’s disease?

The cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. Most researchers think it's caused by a combination of factors.

These are thought to be:

  • genetics
  • the immune system
  • smoking
  • previous infection
  • environmental factors

There's no evidence to suggest a particular diet can cause Crohn's disease, although dietary changes can control certain symptoms and may be recommended by your specialist or dietitian.

There's evidence to suggest genetics plays a role in the development of Crohn's disease. The fact that Crohn's disease is more common in some ethnic groups than in others also suggests that genetics plays an important role.

 

 

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information, read terms and conditions.

This page was reviewed May 2018

This page is due for review August 2021

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