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Crohn's disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It usually affects the intestines, but may occur anywhere from the mouth to the end of the rectum (anus).
See also: Ulcerative colitis
Inflammatory bowel disease - Crohn's disease; Regional enteritis; Ileitis; Granulomatous ileocolitis; IBD- Crohn's disease
The exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. It is an autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when your body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue.
People with Crohn's disease have ongoing (chronic) inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). Crohn's disease may involve the small intestine, the large intestine, the rectum, or the mouth. The inflammation causes the intestinal wall to become thick.
There are different types of Crohn's disease. The type depends on what part of your body is affected.
The following seem to play a role in Crohn's disease:
Crohn's disease may occur at any age. It usually occurs in people between ages 15 - 35.
You are more likely to get this disease if you:
Symptoms depend on what part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and can come and go with periods of flare-ups.
The main symptoms of Crohn's disease are:
Other symptoms may include:
A physical examination may reveal an abdominal mass or tenderness, skin rash, swollen joints, or mouth ulcers.
Tests to diagnose Crohn's disease include:
A stool culture may be done to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms.
This disease may also alter the results of the following tests:
DIET AND NUTRITION
You should eat a well-balanced, healthy diet. It is important to get enough calories, protein, and essential nutrients from a variety of food groups.
No specific diet has been shown to make Crohn's symptoms better or worse. Specific food problems may vary from person to person.
However, certain types of foods can make diarrhea and gas worse. To help ease symptoms, try:
Ask your doctor about extra vitamins and minerals you may need:
You may feel worried, embarrassed, or even sad and depressed about having a bowel accident. Other stressful events in your life, such as moving, a job loss, or the loss of a loved one can cause digestive problems.
Ask your doctor or nurse for tips on how to manage your stress.
You can take medication to treat very bad diarrhea. Loperamide (Imodium) can be bought without a prescription. Always talk to your doctor or nurse before using these drugs.
Other medicines to help with symptoms include:
Your doctor may also give you a prescription for stronger pain medicines.
Medicines that may be prescribed include:
If medicines do not work, a type of surgery called bowel resection may be needed to remove a damaged or diseased part of the intestine or to drain an abscess. However, removing the diseased portion of the intestine does not cure the condition.
Patients who have Crohn's disease that does not respond to medications may need surgery, especially when there are complications such as:
Some patients may need surgery to remove the entire large intestine (colon), with or without the rectum.
For information on what to expect after you are in the hospital for Crohn's disease, see: Crohn's disease - coming home from the hospital
The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America offers support groups throughout the United States. See http://www.ccfa.org/chapters/
There is no cure for Crohn's disease. The condition is marked by periods of improvement followed by flare-ups of symptoms.
It is very important to stay on medications long-term to try to keep the disease symptoms from returning. If you stop or change your medications for any reason, let your doctor know right away.
You have a higher risk for small bowel and colon cancer if you have Crohn's disease.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:
Lichtenstein GR, Hanauer SB, Sandborn WJ; Practice Parameters Committee of American College of Gastroenterology. Management of Crohn's disease in adults. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009;104(2):465-483.
Fry RD, Mahmoud N, Maron DJ, Ross HM, Rombeau J. Colon and rectum. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 50.
Sands BE, Siegel CA. Crohn's disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010:chap 111.