How Crohn’s disease affects the nervous system poorly understood

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Crohn's disease can cause neurological symptoms that are not yet fully understood.

Because Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder it can affect any system of the body. If you are diagnosed with the disease it’s important to speak with your doctor about any symptoms that could be related to the inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) you might experience.

One of the reasons it’s so important is because scientists still don’t fully understand how IBD that primarily includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis affects other areas of the body.

Neurological symptoms associated with Crohn’s

Any part of the nervous system including the peripheral or central areas can be affected by Crohn’s disease. Early recognition and treatment leads to the best outcomes.

Studies show Crohn’s disease can lead to a variety of nervous system disorders. The good news is that it doesn't happen often.

Peripheral neuropathy that causes nerve damage, tingling and pain in the extremities is one example. A condition known a polyneuropathy can lead to nerve degeneration and loss of the protective coating that envelops the nerves, known as the myelin sheath.


Another neurological manifestations of Crohn’s disease that can happen even when the disease is inactive is cranial neuropathy. Symptoms might include headache or vision problems.

Researchers aren’t certain exactly why cranial neuropathy occurs with IBD. There is speculation that anti-TNF therapies could cause brain lesions, leading scientists to suggest a change of therapy for people undergoing treatment who develop symptoms. If you are receiving anti-TNF treatment and develop headache or other neurological symptoms it is important to discuss it with your doctor.

Researchers agree there is a need for more studies to understand how Crohn’s disease can affect the nervous system. Recent findings show neurological problems associated with IBD may be more common than previously known. Emerging patient studies also highlight the importance of more funding for Crohn’s research to understand more about how the disease develops and how it can affect the nervous system and other parts of the body.


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GE - Jornal Português de Gastrenterologia
Nunes, Ana, et al.
Zois CD, et al.

"Crohn's disease: Neurological manifestations"
Jasvinder Chawla MD MBA, Zachary N London MD
January, 2007



I have Crohn's and have been off my meds for over a year now because they were not working and I feel too dangerous to stay on if no outcome.
Gina, how are you managing?
Knowing what foods to avoid would be so helpful. Thank you
Heidi, good idea. But it seems everyone has different foods that either make things better or worse. There are some guidelines. We will do a follow-up article for you.
I would just like to keep up to speed, with all the new findings. Thanks
I suffer with Crohn's disease
I have had crohns disease for 15 years I find it frustrating that there seems to be a lot of information about the Initial diagnosis of crohns but no one seems to be helpful on the long term. Problems of the disease I have had surgery tried 6 to 7 different medications I have been on steroids 6 different times over the years I was on humira for 2 and a half years temporarily off humira due to memory loss and balance issues that have progressed and gotten worse to the point I am seeing a neurologists I did the neuro Trac test physical examination and will soon be doing the nerve conduction test possibly will need further testing I have no idea if this is all crohns related due to the use of the humira or an onset of some new condition or disease I am not yet aware of very confusing to try to figure out without knowing what to expect when you have had the disease for a long time yes I have a gastroenterologist and an Md and now a neurologists I am 50 years old was diagnosed at 36 I have had active crohns for the past 8 years for the first 7 years my symptoms were mild or in remission seems for me as I get older I seem to have new or worsening symptoms we need more information and support on the long term not just in the beginning stages of our diagnoses with this disease are other people finding that to be true if notplease share it would be nice to no others thoughts or opinions who have been dealing with crohns for a long period of time i
I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease sometime around 2000 but I had symptoms years before being diagnosed, I actually found out I was pregnant with my youngest on the day I was going to have my first scope in 1993 even then I had symptoms for years. I have been seeing the same Gastronologist since being diagnosed he has watched my body change over the years and he gives me funny looks when I tell him my Rumatologist says my joint pain and joint swelling is Crohn's related. My Gastronologist thinks Crohn's only effects the digestive system is the impression I get from him, I am seriously thinking about getting a new doctor for my Crohn's. I am going to have a test done on the nerves in my arms at the end of the month I have pain in my upper arms and numbness in my hands I was just reading about the EMG test and that led me to look up Crohn's Disease and neuropathy which led me to this article and then the comments. I learn something new about this disease all the time I wish I could just stop getting new problems that lead me right back to Crohn's related problems. And to get doctors to do more research on their patients diagnosis. Sorry for the misspelled words.
I'm 24 and I was diagnosed at 6 and I can honestly say that between the meds and the disease nothing gets left untouched. I've gone septic like 4 times and had a full colectomy. My short term memory is shit now, I have insomnia and I swear that I'm having neurological issues now and I would really like to talk to you about it. I've also had minor problems memory wise but in the past year I started getting migraines daily for months at a time and this time when they stopped I started slurring and it's gotten gradually worse. I swear somethings happening to me but I feel like I'm crazy for thinking it.
I am so proud of you for what you had to say it seems as though the doctors aren't really listening to anything out side of the intestines with this disease I fully understand or empathize with your thoughts and feelings I was diagnosed with crohns in 2001 I am now 51 I often find myself thinking or feeling that I am often misunderstood when it comes to crohns so thank you I appreciate your courage I too have thought about a different doctor or wish I could find a doctor that specializes in crohns only not all of the other illnesses that a gastro interologists deals with
I have Crohn's Disease and have had Neuropathy for over a year now, does anyone else have this condition, I just have it in both of my feet. Wonder if it's related to my Crohn's Disease.
Crohn's is a neurological disorder. It is caused by an imbalance of Serotonin to Dopamine. Google Amino acid responsive Crohn's disease a case study!