The symptoms of Crohn’s disease mimic those of other gastrointestinal diseases, complicating an accurate diagnosis. Although Crohn’s patients experience many of the same symptoms, they may vary widely in frequency and severity from one patient to another.

Crohn’s is an inflammatory disease of the digestive tract, most commonly the small intestine. It impairs your body’s ability to extract critical nutrients from your intestines, and may cause other health problems and complications. When symptoms are not properly managed, the disease can interfere with normal activities.

By recognizing the symptoms, you can seek timely medical attention. Early diagnosis and onset of treatment leads to better disease management.

Common symptoms of Crohn’s disease

  • Abdominal pain (most common symptom)
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Diarrhea with loose or frequent stools
  • Low-grade fever
  • Sudden or unexplained weight loss
  • Arthritis or joint pain

Some women find that their Crohn’s symptoms become worse during their menstrual cycle. Two-thirds of women report changes during menstruation, and of those, roughly half find they have loose and more frequent stools. Researchers believe the hormones released during a woman’s period are the culprit, however, the exact cause and relationship are still unclear.

Diagnosing Crohn’s disease

There is no one definitive test for Crohn’s. Your physician will determine a diagnosis through extensive evaluation, which may include learning your family history, conducting a physical exam, taking one or more types of x-rays, performing an endoscopy (a look at your gastrointestinal tract with a lighted scope), and analyzing results from pathology tests.

Diagnosing Crohn’s is difficult and may take time. Many of the symptoms are also seen in other diseases, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, and diverticular disease. The key differences between Crohn’s and other gastrointestinal diseases are rectal bleeding, weight loss, and permanent damage to the digestive tract.

It’s important to diagnose Crohn’s as soon as possible. Patients who begin treatment earlier in the disease have better treatment outcomes. If you experience any of the symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease, see your physician right away. You may find the symptoms are due to other, less serious reasons, in which case you’ll have peace of mind from ruling out this disease. If you are diagnosed with Crohn’s, then you can begin treatment right away.