What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is a life-long autoimmune condition, where the digestive tract is ‘attacked’ by the body’s own immune system. This results in the digestive tract becoming inflamed (red, swollen and injured) and unable to properly digest food.

Inflammation can affect any part of the digestive tract but commonly occurs in the lower part of the small intestine or the caecum (part of the large intestine).

While inflammation is usually only seen via endoscopy (examination via an internal camera), the symptoms of Crohn’s disease are more obvious. When Crohn’s disease flares up, symptoms can include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss

Sometimes, digestive issues may be accompanied by a skin rash or inflammation of the eyes, joints or tendons.

Flare ups are followed by periods of disease inactivity (remission). People may go into remission following treatment, but most symptoms eventually return.

In some people, Crohn’s disease can cause serious damage to the digestive tract, and result in complications such as the formation of fistulae (tunnels that form between different sections of the intestines or between the intestines and other organs such as the skin).

While the exact cause of Crohn’s disease is currently unknown, environmental and lifestyle factors (such as exposure to certain bacteria or viruses) and genetics are all thought to be contributing factors that increase a person’s chances of developing Crohn’s disease.

If you have any further questions about the symptoms you may be experiencing, please seek further medical advice from a qualified healthcare professional.

Download the Crohn’s disease booklet