Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Crohn’s disease

Crohn's disease is a lifelong condition where parts of the digestive system become inflamed.

It is one of a group of conditions called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Symptoms of Crohn's disease

Crohn's disease affects people of all ages. The symptoms usually start in childhood or early adulthood.

The main symptoms are:

  • diarrhoea
  • stomach aches and cramps
  • blood in your poo
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • weight loss

The symptoms may be constant or may come and go every few weeks or months. When they come back, it's called a flare-up.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you or your child have:

  • blood in your poo
  • had diarrhoea for more than 7 days
  • stomach aches or cramps very often
  • lost weight for no reason or your child is not growing as fast as you'd expect

A GP will try to find out what's causing your symptoms and may refer you for tests to check for Crohn's disease.

Treatment for Crohn's disease

There's no cure for Crohn's disease, but treatment can help reduce or control your symptoms.

The main treatments are:

  • medicines to reduce inflammation in the digestive system – usually steroid tablets
  • medicines to stop the inflammation coming back – either tablets or injections
  • surgery to remove a small part of your digestive system – sometimes this may be a better treatment option than medicines

Living with Crohn's disease

Living with Crohn's disease can be difficult at times. Unpredictable flare-ups and regular check-ups can disrupt school, work and your social life.

But if symptoms are well controlled, you can live a normal life with the condition.

Support is available from the Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn's Disease (ISCC).

Causes of Crohn's disease

The exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown.

Several things could play a role, including:

  • your genes – you're more likely to get it if a close family member has it
  • a problem with the immune system (the body's defence against infection) that causes it to attack the digestive system
  • smoking
  • a previous stomach bug
  • an abnormal balance of gut bacteria

There's no evidence to suggest a particular diet causes Crohn's disease.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 24 March 2021
Next review due: 24 March 2024

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.