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Crohn’s Disease Symptoms in Women: What to Know

Crohn’s disease is a chronic health condition that can affect your digestive tract and cause many uncomfortable symptoms. Learn about what to expect from the disease, specific Crohn’s disease symptoms for women, and other signs of Crohn's.

Crohn’s disease is one of several types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), meaning it causes inflammation along the digestive tract, or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI tract covers the path that your food takes when you eat, traveling from your mouth and esophagus to your stomach, intestines, and down to your anus. With Crohn’s disease, inflammation typically occurs in the lowest part of the small bowel and upper colon. 

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease and GI tract inflammation may include diarrhea or a change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, cramping, weight loss, and fatigue.

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Inflammation can cause the bowel tissues to swell or thicken, which can lead to painful and possibly life-threatening blockages within the digestive tract. Malnutrition is also a symptom of Crohn’s disease because the body is unable to absorb the necessary nutrients properly. 

Crohn’s disease is a chronic health condition, meaning that it tends to affect people their whole life, although the intensity of their symptoms may vary over time. While there is no cure for Crohn’s, there are several different treatment options available. With proper symptom management, people with Crohn’s disease can go on to live well. 

Crohn’s disease affects a lot of people worldwide regardless of sex, age, or race. However, Crohn’s disease symptoms can be different for women than for men.

Crohn’s disease typically affects the deepest layers of the tissues in the bowels, compared to other IBDs like ulcerative colitis, which usually affects the inner lining of bowel tissue. 

Because Crohn’s disease inflammation penetrates so deeply, it can also affect neighboring organs or tissue. That’s why Crohn’s disease sometimes can affect reproductive organs, which may lead to irregular periods and a higher risk of developing an iron deficiency. Some women experience more intense flare-ups or symptoms of Crohn’s disease during their menstrual cycle. It’s usually connected with hormonal changes.

Crohn’s disease typically affects the deepest layers of the tissues in the bowels, compared to other IBDs.

Women with Crohn’s disease may also develop fistulas between the intestine and skin, or between the intestine and another organ (such as the vagina or bladder). Fistulas near or around the anal area (perianal) are the most common. Fistulas are abnormal pathways or connections between two organs that don’t normally connect.

In the case of Crohn’s disease, a fistula can develop between the intestines and a neighboring organ, which can cause food or bile to enter an organ that it normally wouldn’t. Fistulas can become infected and cause a buildup of mucus or lead to an abscess. Vaginal fistulas, for example, can cause severe pelvic pain or pain during sex

If you’ve been experiencing irregular bowel movements or pain in your abdomen, you may be wondering if you have Crohn’s disease. Some other main symptoms include: 

  • Recurring diarrhea
  • Cramping or stomach aches
  • Feeling fatigued or tired often
  • Losing weight

These symptoms can be mild or severe, and they can come and go periodically, depending on the degree of inflammation in the small intestine and colon. When symptoms arise or flare up, they may appear suddenly, or they can come on gradually. 

Other symptoms of Crohn’s disease include: 

  • Blood in your stool
  • Mouth sores
  • Reduced appetite 
  • Pain around your anus or drainage of bowel contents near or around your anus

If the disease is in remission, you’ll have no signs of Crohn’s, but that doesn’t mean that you’re cured.  

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition, which can cause symptoms of infection, irritation, pain, rash, soreness or tenderness, and burning. 

In severe cases of Crohn’s disease, inflammatory symptoms aren’t always limited to the bowels or GI tract. Inflammation can also occur on a person’s skin, in their eyes, joints, liver, or bile ducts. A child with severe Crohn’s disease may also have other complications later in life, such as delayed growth or sexual development. 

Crohn’s disease symptoms can also include low self-esteem, a decreased sex drive, or impaired sexuality, especially if the flare-ups affect the reproductive organs.

Over time, Crohn’s disease symptoms can lead to other health conditions like skin disorders, malnutrition, osteoporosis, arthritis, and gallbladder or liver disease.

If you have any Crohn’s disease symptoms – mild or severe – you may become self-conscious about what’s happening in your body. Crohn’s disease symptoms can also include low self-esteem, a decreased sex drive, or impaired sexuality, especially if the flare-ups affect the reproductive organs.

If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, you may be wondering how you know if you have Crohn’s disease. The only way to diagnose the disease is by seeing your doctor, who will perform several tests to rule out other possible health conditions. 

Since no single test can diagnose Crohn’s, your doctor may perform any of the following to help confirm a diagnosis: 

  • Blood tests to check for anemia or infection
  • Stool sampling to look for blood in your stool
  • Colonoscopy to examine the inside of your colon or take tissue samples to identify any clusters of inflammation or fistulas
  • A CT scan or MRI to look more closely at the tissues within and around the digestive tract and surrounding organs 
  • A capsule endoscopy, which involves swallowing a capsule with a tiny camera in it that can take pictures of your small intestine
  • A balloon-assisted enteroscopy, which involves using a scope and an overtube to enable your doctor to look further into your small bowel if the capsule endoscopy images show abnormalities

A diagnosis of Crohn’s disease can take weeks, months, or sometimes years to confirm. Speak with your doctor about your symptoms, and be sure to ask about the diagnostic tests available that can help rule out other possible health conditions. 

Crohn’s disease affects a lot of people worldwide, yet it’s a difficult condition to diagnose. Speak with your doctor if you have any of the Crohn’s disease symptoms mentioned above or if you have other signs of Crohn’s that are impacting your health and lifestyle. 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/crohns-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353304

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/1115/p1725.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3804567/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/crohns-disease/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/crohns-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353309

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15587-inflammatory-bowel-disease-overview

https://crohnsandcolitis.ca/About-Crohn-s-Colitis/What-are-Crohns-and-Colitis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4020403/

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