What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and one form of inflammatory bowel disease. In Crohn’s disease, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in response to food or infection in the digestive tract. The disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, but it most commonly affects the lower portion of the small intestine (the ileum). Other areas affected include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum.


Symptoms often have an insidious onset and happen in intermittent bouts. The frequency and intensity of symptoms steadily progress over time. Delay in diagnosis is common due to the diverse pattern of symptoms. Classic symptoms of Crohn’s disease include abdominal pain and swelling and frequent episodes of diarrhea.

Crohn’s disease can seriously affect a person’s ability to participate in normal daily activities and can lead to serious complications including malnutrition and blockage in the intestines. Children who have Crohn’s disease may experience growth problems.

The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is not known, but researchers believe it may be an autoimmune disorder that tends to run in families. Crohn’s disease can affect all age groups but especially young adults ages 15 to 35.

Chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract due to Crohn’s disease can lead to serious or life-threatening complications, such as nutritional deficiencies, gastrointestinal bleeding, anemia, and bowel obstruction.

Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of Crohn’s disease, such as abdominal pain and frequent diarrhea. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have severe bleeding from the rectum, severe and constant abdominal pain, or an unusual change in alertness.


SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease are due to the chronic inflammation and irritation of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping (often involving the right lower quadrant)
  • Anemia
CAUSES

What causes Crohn’s disease?

The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is not known, but researchers believe it may be due to an abnormal response of the immune system to an infection or food in the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s disease may also run in families.

Crohn’s disease is not caused by eating certain foods, although some foods can irritate the bowel and intensify symptoms in people who already have the dise... Read more about crohn's diseasecauses

TREATMENTS

How is Crohn’s disease treated?

There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but it can be treated. Treatment is aimed at minimizing symptoms and complications by reducing bowel inflammation and ensuring good nutrition and hydration. Following your individual treatment plan can produce long-term, symptom-free periods of remission.

Drug treatment of Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease can be treated with a... Read more about crohn's diseasetreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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