NHS website

Crohn's disease

Crohn's disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system.

26 February 2019

Introduction

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.