Signs and Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease impacts various parts of the bowel, typically, when bacteria or microbes attack a weakened immune system. This can result in a long-term chronic condition, known as inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease, as the intestinal walls inflame in response. While not extremely harmful on its own, left unmanaged, inflammation in the intestines can cause pain, diarrhea, infections, and death. In fact, some 30,000+ people in the United States die of Crohn’s disease related complications every year. But, it’s not a death sentence, more than 3 million people in the USA have the disease, and proper management will keep you healthy and alive.
The first step to management is getting a correct diagnosis, recognizing when you have the disease, and getting a doctor to agree.
Something’s Not Right Down There
Chances are that if you have Crohn’s disease, something’s been wrong and for a long time. By the time people pay attention to the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, they’ve probably gone on long enough to cause more damage than if you went to the doctor straight away. But, with symptoms including diarrhea and abdominal cramping, most of us just ignore it as “something we ate”.
Most people suffer from mild, moderate, or severe symptoms.
Mild Crohn’s Symptoms
Most people start out with mild symptoms and ignore them until they get worse.
Frequent diarrhea – You have diarrhea more often than can be explained by your diet, unless you happen to recklessly eat foods that have obviously spoiled or which you know cause diarrhea (for example, if you’re lactose intolerant and drink milk).
Abdominal Cramping – Annoying and painful, but not debilitating. Here, you can probably pass it off as a case of gas or too much exercise.
Moderate Crohn’s Symptoms
Moderate symptoms are a bit more painful and more severe, but still not life threatening, and maybe not something you would go to the doctor about immediately.
You will experience the first two mild symptoms with the addition of:
Abdominal tenderness – It may hurt to poke your stomach
Fever – You frequently run a high or low temperature
Weight Loss – You’ve lost weight with no explanation or changes to diet
Anemia – You suffer from fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and headaches, typically regularly.
In short, you might feel a lot like you’ve gone a long time without eating, haven’t slept much, or are suffering from a case of food poisoning. When they persist, most of us will eventually go to the doctor for a checkup.
Severe Crohn’s Symptoms
Eventually, Crohn’s disease gets worse, and you will begin suffering from stronger and more severe side effects. However, most of these symptoms mimic moderate symptoms but are more severe. For example, a persistent high fever and severe weight loss.
You may also experience:
Regular Vomiting – You throw up frequently, especially after eating.
Consistent Constipation – You always feel constipated, have constant diarrhea, or experience swelling in the abdomen.
Unfortunately, you will have to go to a doctor to discover the last severe symptom, which is intestinal obstruction or abscess. A doctor can tell you if you have a blockage in the intestine or a localized infection as a side effect of Crohn’s. Blockages and abscesses are serious and should be treated right away.
If you experience high fever and regular vomiting, it’s also important that you go to the doctor, even if you don’t have Crohn’s.
Types of Crohn’s Disease
The location of the intestinal blockage or infection will also change the symptoms. For this reason, different areas of infection are labelled and named as different types of Crohn’s disease.
Ileocolitis – Ileocolitis affects the ilium and the colon, which is the end of the small intestine and the large intestine. Most people with this form of Crohn’s suffer from weight loss, diarrhea, and pain in the middle or lower right abdomen.
Ileitis – Ileitis affects the ileum, the end of the small intestine, causing weight loss, diarrhea, and cramping or pain in the middle or lower right abdomen.
Jejunoileitis – Inflammation in the Jejunum, the upper half of the small intestine, causes abdominal pain and cramping after meals and diarrhea.
Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease – Gastroduodenal Crohn’s Disease affects the stomach and the duodenum (The beginning of the small intestine) causing weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and typically, loss of appetite.
Crohn’s Colitis – Crohn’s Colitis is an infection of the large intestine or colon, which causes diarrhea and rectal bleeding. It also makes you more prone to disease and infection around the anus, such as abscesses, fistulas, and ulcers.
Importantly any case of Crohn’s disease can affect any or all of these areas. So, you may have any or all of these symptoms and it can still be Crohn’s disease. The only way to find out for sure is to go to your doctor and get testing.
Click through to the next page to learn more about the complications and possible long-term side-effects of unmanaged Crohn’s disease.