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Crohn's disease - What are the symptoms of Crohn's disease?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Crohn's disease can affect people in different ways. The symptoms you get are also likely to come and go. There are likely to be periods when you feel fine, but at other times your symptoms might suddenly get worse.

Most symptoms of Crohn's disease happen because there are patches of inflammation on your bowels. Some other bowel diseases cause similar symptoms to Crohn's. This can make it hard for doctors to be sure whether you have Crohn's disease, and it often gets mistaken for other illnesses. It can be very frustrating to have unpleasant symptoms and not be able to find out what's causing them.

The most common symptom is diarrhoea that lasts longer than six weeks.[8] Short bouts of diarrhoea are often caused by a stomach bug, but Crohn's disease can cause diarrhoea that lasts a long time. Some people only get diarrhoea at night.

There are other common symptoms.[8]

  • Pain in your abdomen. About 7 in 10 people get this. You might get sharp, cramping pain or a dull ache. The pain is often around your belly button, but it's also possible to get pain on your lower right side, which sometimes gets mistaken for appendicitis.

  • Weight loss. About 6 in 10 people lose weight without trying to.

  • Blood or mucus in your stools. Between 4 and 5 out of 10 people get this problem. Blood in your stools can be bright red or almost black.

  • Anaemia. If you get bleeding in your bowels that lasts a long time, the blood loss can make you anaemic. This means your blood can't carry enough oxygen around your body. Anaemia makes you feel very tired.

If your bowels aren't working properly, your body might not be able to absorb all the nutrients it needs from food. You might not get all the vitamins and minerals you need.

As well as causing inflammation in your bowels, Crohn's disease can sometimes cause inflammation in other parts of your body. You might get joint inflammation and pain (arthritis), a rash, mouth ulcers, or red and inflamed eyes.[4] These problems might flare up at the same time as your other Crohn's disease symptoms.

In some studies, up to 3 in 10 people got symptoms of Crohn's disease that affected parts of their body outside their bowels.[4] However, lots of the research looks at people with more severe Crohn's disease. The average person with Crohn's may be less likely to get these problems.



Anaemia is when you have too few red blood cells. Anaemia can make you get tired and breathless easily. It can also make you look pale. Anaemia can be caused by a number of different things, including problems with your diet, blood loss and some diseases.


Arthritis is when your joints become inflamed, making them stiff and painful. There are different kinds of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type. It happens when the cartilage at the end of your bones becomes damaged and then starts to grow abnormally. Rheumatoid arthritis happens because your immune system attacks the lining of your joints.


Diarrhoea is when you have loose, watery stools and you need to go to the toilet far more often than usual. Doctors say you have diarrhoea if you need to go to the toilet more than three times a day.


Inflammation is when your skin or some other part of your body becomes red, swollen, hot, and sore. Inflammation happens because your body is trying to protect you from germs, from something that's in your body and could harm you (like a splinter) or from things that cause allergies (these things are called allergens). Inflammation is one of the ways in which your body heals an infection or an injury.

For more terms related to Crohn's disease


For references related to Crohn's disease click here.
Last Updated: June 29, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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