Crohn’s symptoms: What is Crohn’s disease, and what causes it?

Strictly: Amy Dowden discusses battle with Crohn's disease

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is a condition which causes inflammation of the digestive system.

The inflammation happens after an injury or irritation, and it can cause redness, swelling and pain.

The illness causes ulcers and inflammation in the gut, and this impacts the body’s ability to digest food.

It also affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste in a healthy way.

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Crohn’s symptoms

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease differ from person to person and vary in severity.

The symptoms may also change over time, and sometimes sufferers will have no symptoms for years at a time.

Other times, people with Crohn’s may have flare-ups or relapses.

The most common symptoms of Crohn’s during a flare-up are:

  • Abdominal pain and diarrhoea- Sometimes mucus, pus or blood is mixed with the diarrhoea.
  • Tiredness and fatigue- This can be due to the illness itself, from the weight loss associated with flare-ups or surgery, from anaemia (see below) or to a lack of sleep if you have to keep getting up in the night with pain or diarrhoea.
  • Feeling generally unwell- Some people may have a raised temperature and feel feverish.
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss- Weight loss can also be due to the body not absorbing nutrients from the food you eat because of the inflammation in the gut.
  • Anaemia (a reduced level of red blood cells)- You are more likely to develop anaemia if you are losing blood, are not eating much, or your body is not fully absorbing the nutrients from the food you do eat. Anaemia can make you feel very tired.

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What causes Crohn’s disease?

The cause of Crohn’s disease is still unknown, even though there has been plenty of research on the subject.

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis organisation, it is currently believed that Crohn’s could be caused by a combination of things.

Crohn’s could be genetic, so if you inherit certain genes you are more likely to get it.

It also could be caused by an abnormal reaction of the immune system to bacteria in the intestine.

The body tries to protect your system against these substances, and it causes inflammation in the gut.

Crohn’s could also be triggered by something in the environment such as viruses, bacteria, smoking, diet, stress, and certain medications.

When to see a GP about Crohn’s

If you have any of the mentioned symptoms, you should see a GP about Crohn’s.

You’re most likely to develop the condition when you are young, and most people are diagnosed before the age of 30.

If your child has any of the following symptoms, you should take them to the doctors:

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

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