Crohn's diseaseOverview

Crohn's disease is a lifelong condition in which parts of the digestive system become inflamed.

Crohn's disease is a lifelong condition in which parts of the digestive system become inflamed.

It's one type of a condition called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Symptoms

Crohn's disease affects people of all ages. The symptoms usually start in childhood or early adulthood.

The main symptoms are:

  • diarrhoea
  • stomach aches and cramps
  • blood in your poo
  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • weight loss

The symptoms may be constant or may come and go every few weeks or months. When they come back, it's called a flare-up.

Read more about the symptoms of Crohn's disease.

When to see a GP

See a GP if you or your child have:

  • blood in your poo
  • diarrhoea for more than 7 days
  • frequent stomach aches or cramps
  • lost weight for no reason, or your child isn't growing as fast as you'd expect

A GP will try to find out what's causing your symptoms and may refer you for tests to check for Crohn's disease.

Read more about how Crohn's disease is diagnosed.

Treatments

There's no cure for Crohn's disease, but treatment can help reduce or control your symptoms.

The main treatments are:

  • medicines to reduce inflammation in the digestive system – usually steroid tablets
  • medicines to stop the inflammation coming back – either tablets or injections
  • surgery to remove a small part of the digestive system – sometimes this may be a better treatment option than medicines

You'll usually have a team of health professionals helping you, possibly including your GP, a specialist nurse and specialist doctors.

Read more about how Crohn's disease is treated.

Living with Crohn's disease

Living with Crohn's disease can be difficult at times. Unpredictable flare-ups and regular check-ups with your care team can disrupt school, work and your social life.

But if symptoms are well controlled, you can live a normal life with the condition.

Support is available from your care team and organisations like Crohn's and Colitis UK if you need it.

Read more about living with Crohn's disease.

Causes

The exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. It's thought several things could play a role, including:

  • your genes – you're more likely to get it if a close family member has it
  • a problem with the immune system (the body's defence against infection) that causes it to attack the digestive system
  • smoking
  • a previous stomach bug
  • an abnormal balance of gut bacteria

There's no evidence to suggest a particular diet causes Crohn's disease.

Page last reviewed: 03/04/2018
Next review due: 03/04/2021