Long-Term Complications

Crohn’s disease can involve any part of your intestinal tract. Inflammation from Crohn’s disease commonly causes abdominal pain and diarrhea. This inflammation can affect all layers of tissue in the lining of the intestine, and can lead to a variety of complications.

Intestinal Blockage

This is the most common complication of Crohn’s disease. Swelling and scarring can narrow the passage through your intestines. This can cause constipation, discomfort, and abdominal pain.

Ulcers

Chronic inflammation of the lining of the intestine can cause open sores to develop. These are called ulcers. Ulcers may occur anywhere in your digestive tract, including your mouth and anus, and in the genital area.

Fistulas

Ulcers can penetrate deeply into the tissue of the intestinal wall. They may even form a tunnel all the way through the wall of the intestine. This is called a fistula. Fistulas create abnormal connections between different parts of your intestine, your intestine and your skin, or your intestine and other organs.

The following is the describes types of fistulas:

  • abdominal abscess: If the fistula opens to an empty space in the abdomen, it can cause an infection and fills with pus (an abdominal abscess). Abdominal abscesses can cause high fevers as well as abdominal pain and tenderness.
  • enteric-vesicular fistula: A fistula between the intestine and the bladder is called an enteric-vesicular fistula. This can cause frequent urinary tract infections. It may also cause you to pass gas and feces during urination.
  • enteric-cutaneous fistula: A fistula between the intestine and the skin is called an enteric-cutaneous fistula. This can cause an opening on the skin of the abdomen. Pus, bowel contents, and mucus may discharge from this opening.
  • colonic-vaginal fistula: A fistula between the colon and the vagina is called a colonic-vaginal fistula. This can cause gas and feces to pass through the vagina.
  • anal fistula: A fistula from the intestines to the anus is called an anal fistula. Mucus and pus may discharge from the fistula’s opening around the anus.

Malabsorption

Malabsorption is common with Crohn’s disease. Scarred and damaged tissues do not absorb nutrients well. If you have chronic diarrhea, your intestines may not have time to absorb nutrients. Malabsorption can cause nutritional deficiencies. These can lead to anemia and malnutrition.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones caused by a loss of calcium. This is especially common if you’ve been treated with corticosteroids.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

RLS is extreme discomfort in one or both legs when sitting or lying down. It may improve when your Crohn’s is treated, or it may need to be treated separately.

Increased Risk of Cancer

Crohn’s disease increases your risk of developing colon cancer. Regular screening is generally recommended.

Complications in Children

Children with Crohn’s disease may have impaired growth and delayed sexual development due to malnutrition and vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Other Common Complications of Crohn’s Disease

Other complications of Crohn’s disease include:

  • arthritis
  • skin problems
  • inflammation in the eyes or mouth
  • kidney stones
  • gallstones
  • impaired liver function

Long-Term Outlook

Crohn’s disease is rarely cured. Most patients experience periods of remission and periods of flare-up. Up to 75 percent of patients will require surgery, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Some will require additional surgery. Some patients with severe disease experience frequent debilitating pain. However, with the proper medical treatment, most Crohn’s patients are able to function well and live reasonably normal lives.