The presence of the following "alarm symptoms" of Crohn's disease requires prompt consultation with a doctor:
- abdominal pain
- diarrhea (especially if it occurs at night) associated with the following:
- weight loss
- iron deficiency
- elevated inflammatory markers
Crohn's disease is often diagnosed by a gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in the digestive system). It can be difficult to diagnose since the symptoms associated with the condition often mirror those of other conditions, such as ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Many tests and procedures are often required when diagnosing Crohn's disease, which makes the overall process take some time. Tests and procedures involved in the diagnostic process include, but are not limited to, a thorough physical examination, colonoscopies, endoscopies, and blood tests. X-rays can help the doctor determine the extent of the inflammation.
So, what are the symptoms of Crohn's disease? The symptoms of Crohn's disease include:
- abdominal tenderness or swelling
- loss of appetite and weight
- rectal bleeding
- stomach cramps
You may also have other symptoms, such as:
- being prone to blood clots (hypercoagulability)
- eye inflammation (red eye)
- joint pain
- skin rash
Crohn's disease can lead to an extremely rare and potentially life-threatening condition called toxic megacolon. The inflammation caused by Crohn's disease can make the colon enlarge to the point where it may tear open, spilling the contents of the colon into the abdominal cavity.
Seek immediate medical attention if you notice these symptoms of toxic megacolon:
- abdominal pain
- abdominal swelling
- altered mental status (e.g., confusion)
- fast heartbeat
- low blood pressure
Other serious complications associated with Crohn's disease include:
- obstruction (blockage)
- fistulas (a hole that connects the intestine with the skin, other organs, or other parts of the intestine)
- anal fissures (cracks in the skin near the anus or in the anus itself)
Crohn's disease can also increase the risk of colorectal cancer. People with Crohn's disease should have regular colonoscopies to screen for cancer, as recommended by their doctors. A colonoscopy is a test where a flexible tube is inserted through the rectum into the colon to check for cancer.
It's not always possible to tell from symptoms alone whether you have Crohn's disease. That's why it's important to visit your doctor for a diagnosis. If you think you may have Crohn's disease, see your doctor to find out for sure.
If you're using a treatment for Crohn's disease but still having symptoms, your disease may not be under control. Treatments are available to help you gain control of your Crohn's disease - make an appointment to see your doctor or gastroenterologist and work together to get your Crohn's disease under control.