Understanding the Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease causes inflammation in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. While its hallmark symptoms come from GI problems, Crohn’s is a complex disease that leads to complications and symptoms in other parts of your body.

As a specialist in Crohn’s disease, Nina Paonessa, DO, FACOS, at Paonessa Colon and Rectal Surgery has helped many patients improve their quality of life by treating their symptoms and keeping the disease in remission. In this blog post, we give you a quick rundown of the diverse symptoms experienced by people with Crohn’s disease.

About Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s is a lifelong inflammatory bowel disease. People with Crohn’s develop patches of inflammation that can appear anywhere along their GI tract, but most often affect the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine.

The inflammation primarily occurs in the layer of tissues lining the intestinal wall. However, Crohn’s is a progressive disease. As a result, the inflammation can eventually penetrate deep into the wall, and in severe cases, it reaches the nearby organs.

Crohn’s symptoms come and go

The first thing to know about Crohn’s symptoms is that they come and go. Most people go through periods when their symptoms suddenly appear, called flares, followed by a period of remission when they have few or no symptoms.

While it’s a challenge to deal with your symptoms, one of the most difficult aspects of Crohn’s is never knowing when a flare will strike. We provide treatments that reduce the frequency of flares and help you stay in remission longer. You also learn about dietary tips that help relieve your symptoms when a flare strikes.

Gastrointestinal symptoms caused by Crohn’s

The primary symptoms you will experience come from your GI tract. The inflamed and irritated tissues cause:

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement
  • Feeling you need to have a bowel movement even when your bowels are empty
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blood and/or mucus in your stool
  • Drainage around your anus

In Crohn’s disease, the abdominal pain typically occurs around the lower right side of your abdomen.

Symptoms outside the digestive tract

Symptoms outside the GI tract, called extraintestinal manifestations, develop in 21-40% of patients with Crohn’s disease. These symptoms arise when the inflammation associated with Crohn’s affects other organs, most often in your bones, joints, skin, and eyes.

Bones and joints

You may develop arthritis that affects large joints like your knees and hips and occurs at the same time as your GI flares. You could also have arthritis in small joints, including the joints in your spine, that persists all the time regardless of flares.


People with Crohn’s disease may develop inflammatory skin conditions that cause tender, red bumps or open sores on their legs. These skin conditions usually appear during flares.


Crohn’s often causes inflammatory eye conditions, including uveitis, episcleritis, and scleritis. These conditions lead to symptoms such as redness, pain, and vision changes.

Crohn’s complications

Crohn’s is known to cause a wide range of complications in and out of your GI tract. You may experience:

  • Nutrient malabsorption
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Gallstones
  • Kidney stones
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fissures (tears in the anus)
  • Intestinal narrowing and blockages
  • Fistulas (abnormal passageways between intestines and organs)

Each complication comes with its own set of symptoms. Because Crohn’s is such a complex disease, it’s important to seek treatment early and get the ongoing care you need to prevent symptom progression and complications.

We offer intensive support to our patients with Crohn’s disease, from medications that control your symptoms to lifestyle advice that helps you stay active and enjoy life despite having Crohn’s.

If you have Crohn’s symptoms, call Paonessa Colon and Rectal Surgery or book an appointment online today.



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