Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Skip Navigation LinksBoys Town National Research Hospital > Knowledge Center > Articles > Pediatric Gastroenterology > Crohn’s Disease

 Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease

​​​​​​Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) typically located in the small intestine and colon. Inflammation caused by Crohn’s is not always visually present. Those diagnosed with this disease will go through periods of flare-ups (when symptoms are present) and remission (when symptoms are absent).

Crohn’s Disease Symptoms

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease are only present when the IBD is active. Often they come on gradually, but it is possible for symptoms to develop suddenly. The severity and variety of symptoms are different for each person, but can include any of the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Mouth sores
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced appetite
  • Abdominal pain/cramping
  • Blood in the stool
  • Anal pain/drainage

Less common symptoms include:

  • Red eyes
  • Eye pain
  • Red bumps or blisters on skin
  • Pus or fecal matter seeping through skin
  • Joint swelling
  • Liver/bile duct inflammation

Crohn’s Disease Complications

In addition to its direct symptoms, Crohn’s disease has been known to cause other health complications.

Because Crohn’s affects an individual’s ability to digest and absorb food, people with Crohn’s may be malnourished or develop anemia or vitamin B12 deficiencies.

The chronic inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease has been known to cause ulcers and intestinal bleeding in the digestive tract. In extreme cases, these ulcers can expand to fistulas, holes in the intestinal wall that create abnormal connections between organs.

Managing Crohn’s Disease

There is no known cure for Crohn’s disease, so the goal is to treat the Crohn’s-related inflammation, which helps in managing the symptoms and treating the complications of the disease. When inflammation and symptoms are not affecting a patient’s daily life, this is called remission. Patients in remission can have normal growth and a very good quality of life.

Medication

One method for treating inflammation is medication. There are a variety of prescriptions available for individuals with Crohn’s because each individual will have different needs and reactions to the medication. Physicians will choose medication based on the following:

  • Location of the inflammation (small intestine or colon)
  • Length of time medication will be used
  • Type of symptoms present
  • Severity of symptoms and complications of the disease.

It is possible that you will have to try a few different medications before finding one that works for you. Both the reduction of symptoms and the presence of side effects will be taken into account when determining if a prescription is beneficial for a patient.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medication may be used to manage symptoms such as diarrhea and pain, but patients are advised to consult their physician before using OTC treatments.

Diet

Diet is another tool used to manage Crohn’s disease. In some cases, a physician may want to provide the bowels some time to rest, or not digest solid food. Under this condition, a patient may spend a short period of time “eating” through a feeding tube or via a substance injected directly to the veins.

In less extreme instances, patients may simply be asked to keep a food diary during Crohn’s flare-ups so they can track what habits tend to aggravate their symptoms and what habits tend to minimize symptoms.

Surgery

Up to one half of individuals diagnosed with Crohn’s will receive some sort of surgery. Surgery will provide a temporary benefit to the individual by removing or repairing a damaged portion of the digestive tract.

Support

Crohn’s disease can lead to some major lifestyle changes, so it is important to have support systems in place. Support can manifest in a number of ways.

  • Someone to talk to – Whether it’s a friend, a therapist or a group of individuals who suffer from IBD, being able to express what you are feeling will help keep the emotional effects of Crohn’s at bay.
  • Quality of life resources – There are systems in place to help Crohn’s sufferers go about their daily life during a flare-up. One such example is the Restroom Request Card, which allows you to discreetly request access to restricted bathrooms when symptoms are about to cause an embarrassing situation.
  • Education – Knowledge is power, so empower yourself by researching your condition, tips for managing your symptoms and more. Start with your physician and branch out to libraries and credible websites.
​​