The most common signs are pain in the stomach area (usually on the right side) and diarrhea. Others include rectal bleeding, weight loss and fever. Bleeding may be serious and lead to anemia. Children with Crohn's disease may experience delayed or stunted growth.
Causes and Risk Factors
Although the exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, many professionals believe that the body's immune system reacts to a virus or certain type of bacteria, which results in inflammation. People with Crohn's tend to have abnormal immune systems, but doctors do not know whether these problems are a cause or a result of the disease. The disease affects men and women equally and seems to run in some families. About 20% of patients with Crohn's disease have a blood relative with some form of usually a brother or sister, parent or child. Crohn's disease in not caused by emotional stress.
Patients with Crohn's disease may have these complications:
- The most common complication is blockage of the intestine, which occurs because the intestinal wall tends to get thick with swelling and scar tissue, causing the passageway to become narrower.
- Sores or ulcers may tunnel past the affected area and get into nearby areas, such as the bladder, vagina, rectum or skin around the anus. These passageways are called fistulas and can become infected. Usually they can be treated with medicine, but sometimes surgery is needed to remove them.
- Poor nutrition is common among IBD patients. Too little protein, calories and vitamins may result from not eating enough food, intestinal loss of protein or poor absorption of food and nutrients.
- Other complications include arthritis, skin problems, inflammation of the eyes and mouth, kidney stones, gallstones or other diseases of the liver and biliary (ductal) system. Some of these problems can be addressed during treatment for Crohn's disease, while others may need to be treated separately.