Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract.

Learn more about this condition and the effect it has on your bowels as well as other areas of your body.


What is Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract. 

As we will discuss later in the article, Crohn’s is chronic and belongs to a group of conditions known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). 

Crohn’s Disease is diagnosed and differentiated from other IBD’s by noting the presence and placement of inflammation in the GI tract. 

Any part of the GI tract, from the mouth to the anus, can be affected, however, the most commonly affected area is the small intestine. 

The entire thickness of the bowel wall is also susceptible to inflammation, and certain sections of the intestine can be skipped – inflammation is not always continuous in Crohn’s Disease. 

If you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and are looking for more information on how it will affect you, we are here to assist you on your journey to being the healthiest you possibly can. 



Despite extensive research, experts still are not absolutely sure what causes Crohn’s Disease. In recent years, advances have been made in many diagnostic areas, specifically genetics. 

Through these strides in research, it is now believed that Crohn’s Disease is likely caused by a combination of factors. 

These could include viruses, bacteria, diet, smoking, certain medications, and stress. No definite evidence is available to confirm any of these possible causes, however.



There is no permanent cure for Crohn’s Disease, it is often called a chronic condition as it is ongoing. Through medical advice and appropriate treatment, it is possible to achieve lengthy periods of good health, which is known as remission, where the symptoms are inactive. 



Effects on the body

Digestive System

Crohn’s Disease predominantly affects the digestive tract, most commonly the small intestine. Three complications that are commonly caused by Crohn’s are strictures, perforations, and fistulas.



Strictures are the recurring inflammation and then healing in the bowel and may cause scar tissue to form, potentially causing the narrowing of a section of the bowel.

This can make it difficult for food to pass through and in serious cases can cause a complete blockage. Symptoms are severe abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.



In rare cases, complications like experiencing inflammation deep in the bowel wall or a severe blockage caused by a stricture may even lead to a perforation of the bowel, creating a hole. 

This requires immediate medical attention to prevent the contents of the bowel from leaking through the hole and possibly forming an abscess. Symptoms are severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting.




A fistula is a narrow tunnel or passageway that develops and connects an organ to another part of the body, either one internal organ to another, or the outside. 

Approximately one in every three Crohn’s patients will develop a fistula at some point, an anal fistula being the most common type experienced. 

Symptoms in this instance include tenderness and swelling in the area around the anus, pain, and irritation that is exacerbated by sitting, moving, and excreting.


Cardiovascular System

One of the most common complications of IBDs such as Crohn’s Disease is becoming anaemic.

Anaemia is caused by a combination of factors; reduced ability to absorb nutrients in the digestive tract or excessive blood loss.

 Anaemia can cause mild to severe symptoms, ranging from shortness of breath, headaches, and general weakness to chronic tiredness and fatigue.


Skeletal System

Both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis can make you more susceptible to developing weaker bones through conditions like osteoporosis, or low bone mass. 

Inflammation in the gut, taking steroid medications, low levels of calcium and vitamin D due to poor nutrient absorption, or surgical removal of parts of the small bowel are all factors that can contribute to bone loss. 

This means that it is especially dangerous for someone who has an IBD to have a fall, as bones can break or fracture more easily. 

Another common set of complications for Crohn’s Disease is joint issues.

These include pain and swelling in joints (arthralgia or arthritis) or inflammation around the tendons and ligaments (enthesitis). 

Joint issues can limit mobility and cause pain that can negatively affect other areas of life, work, and exercise.


Central Nervous System

Approximately 10% of people who suffer from a form of IBD are affected by eye problems. 

The three most common eye conditions caused by Crohn’s Disease are episcleritis (inflammation of the layer of tissue covering the sclera, the white outer coating of the eye), scleritis (inflammation of the sclera itself), and uveitis (inflammation of the iris). 

Episcleritis is most common and may need anti-inflammatory or steroid drops to combat symptoms. 

The latter two are far more serious conditions and if untreated can lead to vision loss, so it is important to contact your doctor should you experience any kind of eye irritation, redness or inflammation. 



Integumentary System

The skin is also sometimes affected by Crohn’s Disease. People with Crohn’s have a slightly higher risk of developing erythema nodosum or pyoderma gangrenosum on the ankles, shins, or arms. 

The more common, erythema nodosum, affects about one in seven people with Crohn’s and is more prevalent in women than men. The symptoms consist of red swellings of about 1.5cm in diameter that usually present on the legs. 

This condition occurs most often during flare-ups and Crohn’s treatments generally help with reducing symptoms. 

Pyoderma gangrenosum is rarer, starting with small blisters or pustules which develop into deep, painful ulcers. These can occur anywhere on the skin but are found most often on the shins or near stomas. 

Mental/Emotional Well-being

The mind and body are undeniably linked when it comes to matters of health, and symptoms of Crohn’s Disease can result in emotional difficulties. 

Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed or dealing with recurring flare-ups, it is important to develop a support system to assist you in coping with monitoring stress and emotional levels linked to your IBD. 


Managing Symptoms and Long Term Medical Care 

As a condition that does not have a cure, drug treatments for Crohn’s Disease are usually aimed at reducing symptoms, controlling flare-ups, and achieving the ultimate goal of remission. 

Once remission is achieved, the goal will be to prevent a relapse and maintain the standard of health. 

To read more about the drug treatments available for Crohn’s Disease, click here 

As with any illness, living a healthy lifestyle can only be beneficial to reducing symptoms so it is a good idea to maintain a balanced diet and exercise regime.

If you are a smoker, it is also suggested that you reduce your consumption as much as possible. 

If your case of Crohn’s is severe, your doctor may suggest additional steps to reduce symptoms, such as surgery to remove affected parts of the gastrointestinal tract.






The Way Forward

It is important to stay connected with your doctor regarding all the effects that Crohn’s Disease has on the body so that you can become a valuable member of your own healthcare team. 

Joining clinical trials and support groups are also helpful ways to learn more about the condition and how best to manage it going forward.


Join our Crohn’s Disease clinical trials now.

Medical surveys

Future treatments are now one step closer. 

Contact us

Spoke Research Inc
Mediclinic Milnerton,
Suite 109
Racecourse Rd, Milnerton
Cape Town


Mon – Thurs: 08:00-15:00
Fri: 08:00-12:00
Sat: Closed


Leave a Message

Privacy Agreement

11 + 7 =