Crohn's Disease

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Crohn's disease facts

  • Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines.
  • The cause of Crohn's disease is unknown.
  • Crohn's disease can cause ulcers in the small intestine, colon, or both.
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss are symptoms of Crohn's disease.
  • Crohn's disease of the small intestine may cause obstruction of the intestine.
  • Crohn's disease can be associated with reddish, tender skin nodules, and inflammation of the joints, spine, eyes, and liver.
  • The diagnosis of Crohn's disease is made by barium enema, barium X-ray of the small bowel, and colonoscopy.
  • The choice of treatment for Crohn's disease depends on the location and severity of the disease.
  • Treatment of Crohn's disease includes drugs for suppressing inflammation or the immune system, antibiotics, and surgery.

What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease (sometimes called Crohn disease) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines. It primarily causes ulcerations (breaks in the lining) of the small and large intestines, but can affect the digestive system anywhere from the mouth to the anus. It is named after the physician who described the disease in 1932. It also is called granulomatous enteritis or colitis, regional enteritis, ileitis, or terminal ileitis.

Crohn's disease is related closely to another chronic inflammatory condition that involves only the colon called ulcerative colitis. Together, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are frequently referred to as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease have no medical cure. Once the diseases begin, they tend to fluctuate between periods of inactivity (remission) and activity (relapse).

 Men and women are affected equally by inflammatory bowel disease. Americans of Jewish European descent are more likely to develop IBD than the general population. IBD has historically been considered predominately disease of Caucasians, but there has been an increase in reported cases in African Americans suffering from IBD. The prevalence appears to be lower among Hispanic and Asian populations. IBD most commonly begins during adolescence and early adulthood (usually between the ages of 15 and 35). There is a small second peak of newly-diagnosed cases after age 50. The number of new cases (incidence) and number of cases (prevalence) of Crohn's disease in the United States are rising, although the reason for this is not completely understood.

Crohn's disease tends to be more common in relatives of patients with Crohn's disease. If a person has a relative with the disease, his/her risk of developing the disease is estimated to be at least 10 times that of the general population and 30 times greater if the relative with Crohn's disease is a sibling. It also is more common among relatives of patients with ulcerative colitis.

Picture of Crohn's Disease
Picture of Crohn's Disease
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/27/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Crohn's Disease - Symptoms Question: The symptoms of Crohn's disease can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
Crohn's Disease - Diet Question: What diet changes did you have to make, or continue to make to control the symptoms of your Crohn's disease?
Crohn's Disease - Treatment Question: Describe the various kinds of treatment you've had for Crohn's disease.
Crohn's Disease - Medications Question: What medications have you taken for Crohn's disease? Have any of them helped with symptoms?

Crohn's Disease Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Crohn's Disease?

Viewer Question: Can Crohn's disease be manifested with constipation and flatulence (farting)? My daughter has been on medication for constipation for months and it is not working and she experiences extreme bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation with some diarrhea and is miserable.

Doctor's Response: Extreme bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation with some diarrhea are unusual symptoms of Crohn's disease.

Common symptoms of Crohn's disease include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss. Less common symptoms include poor appetite, fever, night sweats, rectal pain, and rectal bleeding. Some individuals with Crohn's disease also develop symptoms outside of the gastrointestinal tract; these symptoms include arthritis, skin rash, and inflammation of the iris of the eye.