Crohn's disease

Crohn’s disease is a condition that causes a wide variety of symptoms. The type of symptom depends entirely on the location, extent and combination of the parts of the body affected. Symptoms include:

  • diarrhoea
  • bloating
  • mouth ulcers
  • urgency (pressure) to pass stool
  • abdominal pain
  • often tiredness
  • joint pains including back pain

Crohn's disease affects approximately 1 in 500 people in the UK.

Which part of the body is mainly affected?

Any part of the digestive system from the mouth to the anus can be effected, but common areas include the last part of the small intestine and patches of the large bowel (terminal ileum).

IleumIleocolicColon

Sometimes parts of the body outside the intestine are affected, these include:

  • skin – rashes
  • joints – swollen, red, painful joints including the spine
  • eyes – inflamed itchy, red eyes
  • bones – thinning of bones, known as osteoporosis
  • liver – inflamed liver

Causes

The cause of Crohn’s disease is not clear and is likely to involve a number of factors that differ from person to person. Research is ongoing in the field of genetics, immunology, nutrition and their interaction. UHS take part in a number of these research projects and from time to time invite patients to help us understand their condition further. If you would like more information about these projects please don’t hesitate to ask a member of the team.

Symptoms 

Your doctor may suspect a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease if you have a combination of:

  • diarrhoea (particularly at night)
  • abdominal pain
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • less common symptoms include skin rashes, joint pains, red or itchy eyes.

Is Crohn’s disease the same in everybody? 

Symptoms vary from person to person, the combination of symptoms can also vary for individuals over time.

Although the extent of Crohn’s disease is important, it is not the only determining factor. When Crohn’s disease becomes active it is known as a flare. The amount of symptoms are more pronounced at these times and in-between these episodes most people will have few symptoms.

How long will Crohn’s disease last?

Once Crohn’s disease has been diagnosed, it is considered a long term diagnosis. Some people will have long periods of being well between flares (remission), whilst others will have a more active disease course. Your doctor or nurse will be happy to talk to you about the short and long term management of your disease.

Minimising the chance of a flare

Following personalised treatment plans gives the best chance of minimising the risk of flares, this includes taking your medication as prescribed. If you find this difficult please talk to the IBD team. We recommend a healthy diet and lifestyle, which we can help advise patients about. There are no food groups that cause flares, but some people find particular food types are tolerated less well. Please refer to the diet advice that has been produced by the IBD specialist dietician team.

Treatments

The treatment for Crohn’s disease can be in the form of tablets, suppositories, enemas, injections and surgery.

For a detailed run though of each of these please speak to a member of the IBD team.

Surgery

Some people with Crohn’s disease will need an operation if medication is not successful in treating the disease. The type of surgery varies greatly, but is generally the removal of the part of bowel affected by Crohn’s. The operation may lead to a stoma, which could be temporary or permanent. The stoma is a bag placed on the surface of the abdomen allowing for collection of stool material. The surgical team and stoma nurses will be able to give you more information on this.

More information is available from iasupport.org|

Can Crohn’s disease affect the chances of having children?

For details please speak to a member of the IBD team.