The Symptoms to Watch Out For
Crohn's disease is generally more difficult to diagnose than the
other major inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis. This is because Crohn's
isn't confined to any one area of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Ulcerative
colitis is located in the colon, while Crohn's may appear anywhere from the
mouth to the anus.
There are several different types of Crohn's disease, each with
its own set of symptoms. You can better help your doctor make a proper
diagnosis if you know what symptoms to watch out for.
General Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
A few symptoms are common among all types of Crohn's disease.
These symptoms include abdominal pain with cramps, diarrhea, weight loss, and a
lack of energy. Pain usually begins within an hour of eating and is most often
around the navel, the lower right abdomen, or both. Activities like jogging
will often make the pain worse.
Another symptom that differentiates Crohn's from ulcerative
colitis is swelling. This swelling is found in about 25 percent of people with Crohn's
and is usually located in the lower right part of the abdomen. The swelling is
typically about the size and firmness of a small grapefruit. The tenderness of
the swelling, which is easily felt, ranges from mild to extreme. Mild
tenderness points to an inflamed intestine and enlarged lymph glands. Extreme
tenderness may be due to an abscess, in which case the skin may appear red
and/or stretched. Moderate tenderness could signal a combination of the above
Another symptom of Crohn's disease that affects 25 percent of people
is perianal disease. It’s usually in the form of an abnormal connection between
two organs that aren't typically joined (a fistula), which may also include one
or more abscesses. Some people have swollen skin tags around the anus as
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease of the Colon
Symptoms of Crohn's disease of the colon (Crohn's colitis)
manifest differently depending on where the disease is located in the
If the disease is on the right side of the colon, a person will
generally have cramps and diarrhea. If it’s located on the left side or
involves most of the colon, a person may experience blood in the stool in
addition to the other symptoms.
If the disease is located on the rectum, symptoms will be similar
to ulcerative colitis. They may include bloody diarrhea or the feeling of
having a bowel movement in which little or nothing comes out.
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease of the Small Intestine
Between 70 and 80 percent of people with Crohn's disease of the
small intestine (small bowel Crohn's) will experience cramps, diarrhea, and
Occasionally, a person with small bowel Crohn's will have
constipation rather than diarrhea. Pain is so extreme with this type of Crohn's
that some people will avoid eating. This accounts for most of the weight
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease of the Ileum and Colon
The ileum is a portion of the small intestine. Someone with both
Crohn's of the ileum and Crohn's colitis may experience symptoms associated
with either of the diseases above, or both. This is because Crohn's of the
ileum may flare up when the colonic disease is in remission, or vice
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease of the Stomach or Duodenum
The duodenum is the part of the small intestine closest to the
stomach. Many people who have Crohn's of the stomach or duodenum will
experience no symptoms at all. Over 90 percent of those who have symptoms,
however, will have pain in the upper abdomen either during or immediately
following a meal. A smaller percentage will experience nausea, vomiting, or
Around half of the people who have symptoms of Crohn's of the
stomach or duodenum will experience weight loss because they are avoiding food.
In some cases, because of scarring, this type of Crohn's will cause a narrowing
of the outlet of the stomach into the duodenum. If this happens, you will
usually experience a decrease in appetite, a prolonged bloated feeling located
in the upper abdomen, and nausea.
Symptoms of Crohn's Diseases of the Appendix, Esophagus, and Mouth
These types of Crohn's are extremely rare so it’s not possible to
identify their "typical" symptoms. Crohn's disease of the appendix
may mimic appendicitis and can be present without any other unique symptoms.
Crohn's of the esophagus may cause pain behind the breastbone while swallowing.
If the esophagus has become narrowed due to scarring, a person may
have trouble swallowing or food may become stuck on the way down. Contact your
doctor immediately if you have these symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of Crohn's
of the mouth normally consist of large, painful sores in the mouth. If
you have this symptom, contact your doctor.