Colitis Home > Complications of Crohn's Disease

In patients with Crohn's disease, a number of complications are possible. For example, a person could develop sores, abscesses, or bowel obstructions in the digestive tract. Examples of less common complications involving the digestive tract include toxic megacolon and colon cancer. Problems that may develop outside of the digestive tract include nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, and joint problems.

An Overview of Crohn's Disease Complications

There are a variety of potential complications with Crohn's disease. Some of these complications happen inside the intestines, while others, such as arthritis and skin disorders, occur in other parts of the body (these are known as systemic complications).
Possible Crohn's disease complications within the digestive tract may include:
  • Sores or ulcers
  • Fistulas
  • Abscesses
  • A bowel obstruction
  • Perforations (tears) in the intestines
  • Toxic megacolon
  • Cancer.
Complications of Crohn's disease that can develop outside of the intestines include:
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Osteoporosis (bone thinning)
  • Joint problems, such as joint tenderness or arthritis
  • Skin disorders
  • Inflammation of the eye or mouth
  • Liver disease
  • Inflammation of the bile ducts
  • Kidney stones.
Not everyone with Crohn's disease develops these complications, and it is not known exactly why some of them happen -- especially those outside of the intestines.
Some complications may happen because the digestive system isn't working right. Inflammation of the small intestine makes it harder for your body to digest food and absorb nutrients, so it can cause malnutrition. In children, this can result in stunted growth and development. Some people with Crohn's disease have a decreased appetite, so they eat even less food than they would normally.
Other complications, such as skin disorders and arthritis, are thought to be triggered by an overactive immune system.
Generally, these complications go away with treatment of the Crohn's disease, but they may have to be treated separately.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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