Crohn's Disease: Symptoms, Complications, and Treatment

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What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease, also known as ileitis or enteritis is a long-term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in the lining of the digestive system. This disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, comprising of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, and anus. In majority of the people, however, the lower part of the small intestine, i.e. the ileum, is affected.

This inflammatory bowel disease should not be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

The damaging inflammation of Crohn’s may cause abdominal pain, frequent diarrhoea and other symptoms which vary from mild to severe. In certain cases, it can also be life-threatening.

How does Crohn’s disease occur?

In Crohn’s disease, the immune system of the body attacks the harmless or the good virus, bacteria, or food in the gut that causes inflammation leading to bowel injury.

Since the immune system is involved, Crohn’s is medically classified as an autoimmune disorder. It has not been substantiated as to why the immune system suddenly begins to attack the gut bacteria, and the food. Due to the attack white blood cells accumulate in the lining of the gut, which triggers inflammation. This inflammation leads to ulcerations and bowel injury.

Since the exact cause of the malfunctioning immune system has not yet been found, scientists now believe that genetic factors may contribute in causing this disease. Furthermore, links have been discovered between this disease and mutations in genes located on chromosomes 5 and 10. These genetic variants affect the bacteria in the digestive system. Changes in the gut bacteria can cause the intestinal cells to respond to it abnormally, which in turn can cause inflammation and digestive issues that are associated with Crohn’s disease.

What are the causes of Crohn’s disease?

Though the exact causes of Crohn’s disease are not known, researchers believe a number of factors can contribute to this disease such as:

  • a family history of Crohn’s disease
  • a malfunctioning immune system that affects the gastrointestinal tract, causing inflammation that contributes to symptoms
  • bacteria, a virus, or some unidentified factor in the environment that triggers an abnormal immune response
  • cigarette smoking seems to contribute to the development of this disease

Who is prone to Crohn’s disease?

Some people are more prone to Crohn’s disease than others, such as:

  • people with a family history of the disease
  • women are slightly more likely to develop Crohn’s disease than men
  • people who smoke a lot
  • people who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
  • people within 30 years of age

What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease? How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?



The symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:

  • chronic diarrhoea, often bloody and containing mucus or pus
  • fatigue
  • reduced appetite
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • mouth sores
  • abdominal pain and tenderness
  • a feeling of a mass or fullness in the abdomen
  • rectal bleeding


A gastroenterologist can diagnose Crohn’s disease by advising you to undergo a mix of tests and procedures such as:  

  • Stool tests
  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy
  • Sigmoidoscopy to investigate the lower bowel
  • Colonoscopy to investigate the colon
  • Endoscopy to check upper part of the gut
  • Barium enema X-ray which shows the inside of the bowel
  • CT scans for a 3-dimensional picture of the bowel

What are the complications of Crohn’s disease?

The complications of Crohn’s disease include:

  • bowel obstruction
  • ulcers
  • fistula
  • anal fissure
  • malnutrition
  • colon cancer
  • other diseases such as anemia, skin disorders, osteoporosis, arthritis, and gallbladder or liver disease
  • inflammation of skin, eyes and joints
  • inflammation of the liver or bile ducts
  • delayed growth or sexual development, in children

What is the treatment of Crohn’s disease?

Medical Treatment for Crohn's Disease

There is currently no cure for Crohn's disease, and there is no one treatment that works for everyone. The goal of the treatment is to reduce your symptoms.

Your doctor can prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, pain relievers, antidiarrheals, and vitamin supplements. In severe cases, the doctor may prescribe nutrition therapy, (wherein a special diet given via a feeding tube, or nutrients injected into a vein to treat your Crohn's disease), and also surgery.

Would you like to consult a doctor for Crohn's Disease ?

Questions answered by trusted doctors

Verified User
My sister Chaitali suffering​ from crohn disease. Is there a cure for crohn's disease? What type of diet required?
Dr. R. Kamalakannan
GastroIntestinal Surgeon, Chennai
It is unlikely to get  complete cure for Crohns disease . This disease is known for relapse & remission.  There are advanced medical treatment available to keep the disease in remission.  Even for complication better surgical management are available.  To advice her change in life style and diet modification,  she need consultation with your nearby gastroenterologist
Verified User
My friend has been diagnosed with Crohn's and is currently following a gluten free diet as a result of it. The diet is definitely helping along with the medications prescribed. However there is frequent recurrence of pain and oftentimes drop in BP. What other dietary and lifestyle changes can be undertaken to improve
Dr. Chethan R S
General Physician, Bangalore
Eat small meals. You may find you feel better eating five or six small meals a day rather than two or three larger ones.Drink plenty of liquids. Try to drink plenty of fluids daily. Water is best. Alcohol and beverages that contain caffeine stimulate your intestines and can make diarrhea worse, while carbonated drinks frequently produce gas.Consider multivitamins. Because Crohn's disease can interfere with your ability to absorb nutrients and because your diet may be limited, multivitamin and mineral supplements are often helpful. Limit dairy products. Many people with inflammatory bowel disease find that problems such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas, improve by limiting or eliminating dairy products. You may be lactose intolerant — that is, your body can't digest the milk sugar (lactose) in dairy foods. Using an enzyme product such as Lactaid may help as well.Try low-fat foods. If you have Crohn's disease of the small intestine, you may not be able to digest or absorb fat normally. Instead, fat passes through your intestine, making your diarrhea worse. Try avoiding butter, margarine, cream sauces and fried foods.
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Did you know?

Cases of IBD in India

India has over 12 lakh cases of 'inflammatory bowel disease' or IBD annually but very few people are even aware of the seriousness and symptoms of the disease.

IBD cases in the world

About 50 lakh people have IBD across the world.

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Home Remedies

Consume Turmeric

Consuming turmeric in juice, or powder form can keep inflammation at bay. You can squeeze out a teaspoon of turmeric juice, mix it with a glass of lukewarm water and drink in the morning. Also include turmeric powder in your day-to-day cooking.

Take Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria which are similar to the good bacteria in the intestines. Probiotics are essential for people suffering from Crohn’s disease. Taking probiotics can help restore the state of good bacteria in the digestive tract, which in turn aids digestion, absorption and processing of foods through the intestinal tract.

Take Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranate juice is said to be highly beneficial for Crohn’s disease. Take at least one glass of juice everyday.

Avoid These Foods

Avoid nuts as they can be hard to digest. Avoid taking fruits with the skin, for example, apples. Peel off the skin and eat. Avoid fried foods especially fried fish and chicken. Avoid tomatoes, dairy products, and alcohol.

Take Plenty of Water

Crohn’s disease can lead to dehydration. Make sure you drink 10 -12 glasses of water everyday.