What is the life expectancy of someone with Crohn’s disease?

crohn's disease life expectancyCrohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that can include serious complications. Here, we look at Crohn’s disease life expectancy.

When someone has Crohn’s disease, the lining of the digestive system is inflamed. This inflammation can begin from the mouth but is commonly associated with the last section of the small intestine or the large intestine. Suffering from Crohn’s disease can mean that a person experiences diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloody stools, fatigue, and weight loss. Unfortunately, Crohn’s disease can lead to life-threatening complications. This is why many people wonder about life expectancy with Crohn’s disease.


People who suffer from this debilitating condition can sometimes go long periods of time without any symptoms or with really mild symptoms. However, this remission period can be followed by periods of severe flare-ups.

What is the life expectancy of someone with Crohn’s disease?

There is no known cure for this disease. Various therapies help reduce the symptoms and allow people to function better. Crohn’s disease impacts a great number of young people – usually those in their twenties. Life expectancy with Crohn’s disease should not be a concern. This disease doesn’t directly affect life expectancy.

There have been a lot of advances in the diagnosis and treatment of Crohn’s. What people do have to consider though is Crohn’s disease life expectancy without treatment. In the 1950s, a severe attack of Crohn’s disease meant a 30 to 60 percent risk of death, but that risk is now three percent when a patient follows a proper treatment plan. These treatments include everything from prescription medications to natural treatments, diet, exercise, as well as stress control techniques.

It can be challenging to live with Crohn’s, but when patients control their symptoms with treatments, they can expect to live a long life. Staying on top of symptoms, communicating with a healthcare professional, and maintaining good treatment can help keep complications under control, including complications that are life-threatening. These complications can be as simple as a side effect due to the type of medication that is being taken.

Specific Crohn’s disease complications are outlined below, but it is prudent that we first address a common misconception about this chronic inflammatory condition. Many people seem to think that Crohn’s disease will eventually lead to cancer. However, research shows that more than 90 percent of people who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease will never get cancer. It is important to know that those who have IBD do have a greater risk of colon cancer than those who do not have this health condition. People who have Crohn’s disease in the small intestine are at risk of small bowel cancer, although this type of cancer is rather rare. As a precautionary measure, anyone who suffers from Crohn’s disease should see a gastroenterologist on a regular basis for testing of any kind of intestinal cancer.

Some people who suffer from Crohn’s disease do require surgery and while some estimate it to be in the 70 percent range, this is often after many years of having the condition. As with any surgery, of course, there can be risks.

Complications of Crohn’s disease

Let’s look at some of the more common Crohn’s disease complications, keeping in mind that having this inflammatory bowel disease does not mean you will face any further problems. These are just some possibilities:

Intestinal stricture

This happens when inflammation of the bowel causes scar tissue to form leading to areas becoming narrowed. In these cases, there is a risk that digestive waste can be obstructed and that stool either won’t pass or will pass as watery stools. An intestinal stricture can lead to bloating, vomiting, and cramping. If there is an obstruction and it is left untreated, there is a risk of bowel perforation (splitting). An intestinal stricture is usually treated with surgery or balloon dilation, performed during a colonoscopy.


Excessive inflammation and scarring can lead to the development of ulcers. These ulcers can turn into tunnels over time that forms from one part of the digestive system to the other. The passageways are referred to as fistulas. While small fistulas may not cause a lot of trouble, large ones can get infected and create symptoms, such as throbbing pain, fever, blood, or pus in stools, and leakage of stools into underwear. Some people experience fistulas on the skin near the anus that release a foul smell. There are medications to treat fistulas.


Some people can experience a weakening of their bones, which is caused by the intestines not absorbing nutrients. Osteoporosis has also been linked to the use of steroid medications to treat Crohn’s disease.


Iron deficiency anemia happens in people who suffer from Crohn’s disease due to bleeding in the digestive tract. This often accounts for symptoms such as fatigue, pale complexion, and shortness of breath associated with Crohn’s.

B12 or folate deficiency

This is a condition caused by lack of vitamin B12 or folate being absorbed by the body. The most common symptom associated with B12 or folate deficiency anemia is lack of energy.

Pyoderma gangrenosum

This is a skin reaction that causes painful skin ulcers.

Growth issues

Some children with Crohn’s disease may also experience growth and development problems. This is because their bodies aren’t absorbing enough nutrients.

Colon cancer

Those who have Crohn’s disease that impacts the colon do have an increased risk of colon cancer. Colon cancer screening guidelines for people who have Crohn’s disease stipulate a colonoscopy should be conducted every 10 years starting at age 50.


The symptoms of diarrhea and abdominal pain can make it difficult for people with Crohn’s disease to eat or absorb enough nutrients to stay healthy.

Anal fissure

This is a small tear in the tissue that lines the anus or the skin around the anus. It is often linked to painful bowel movements. Sometimes these fissures can become infected.


Crohn’s disease has also been known to cause health problems in other parts of the body, including the gallbladder and liver. The condition has also been associated with arthritis. There are certain medications for Crohn’s disease that block certain functions of the immune system and have been linked to lymphoma and skin cancers, as well as an increase in the risk of infection. It is important for Crohn’s disease sufferers to understand the medications they are prescribed.

Complications of Crohn’s disease should not be an obsession, especially if the patient educates himself or herself about the condition, potential complications, impact of treatments, as well as keeping the lines of communication open with health care providers. If you are diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, it might seem scary, but if you do what you should to manage and monitor symptoms, you will likely enjoy a normal lifespan.

Related: Crohn’s disease vs. ulcerative colitis, differences in symptoms, causes, and treatment



Related Reading:

Crohn’s disease patients show signs of mild cognitive impairment: Study