A colon with several inflamed areas

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease caused by inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It's characterized by abdominal pain, cramps, bloody stool, diarrhea, and/or weight loss.

The diagnosis is complex, and involves clinical history, lab tests, imaging, and endoscopy (a camera inserted into the mouth) or colonoscopy (a camera inserted into the anus).

Dietary strategies, such as getting enough fluid and fiber and maintaining a nutrient- and calorie-rich diet, are cornerstones of symptom control. Medications like Asacol (mesalamine), methotrexate, or Humira (adalimumab) may reduce inflammation, and infections are treated with antibiotics. Surgery may be necessary for complications like anal fissures and bowel obstruction.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes Crohn's disease?

    Crohn's disease is caused by patchy areas of inflammation and deep ulcers in the GI tract. The lesions can affect one or more sections of the GI tract, appearing anywhere between the mouth and the anus and causing irritation of the tissue. These issues interfere with digestion of food and lead to the symptoms and complications of Crohn’s disease.

  • How do you get Crohn's disease?

    Hereditary and environmental issues are associated with Crohn’s disease, and sometimes it occurs without risk factors. Risk factors include family history, smoking, urban living, and bacterial overgrowth. Experts believe that a weak immune system or an overactive immune system could be at play. Certain medications, including antibiotics and NSAIDs, may contribute to the condition as well.

  • How is Crohn's disease diagnosed?

    Crohn’s disease is diagnosed with several criteria, and direct visualization of the lesions is the most definitive. Endoscopy or colonoscopy may identify a cobblestone-like appearance of the lesions. Weight loss, ulcerations on imaging tests, or inflammatory blood test markers (like erythrocyte sedimentation rate), can support the diagnosis and help determine its severity and prognosis.

  • Is Crohn's disease genetic?

    There is a familial predisposition to Crohn’s disease, and experts suggest that there could be a genetic component, as well as environmental factors that contribute to this condition. There is no clear hereditary pattern of Crohn’s disease inheritance, and there is no specific gene identified as responsible for the condition.

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Page Sources
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  3. Włodarczyk M, Sobolewska-Włodarczyk A, Stec-Michalska K, Fichna J, Wiśniewska-Jarosińska M. The influence of family pattern abnormalities in the early stages of life on the course of inflammatory bowel diseases. Pharmacol Rep. 2016 Aug;68(4):852-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pharep.2016.04.008

  4. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Fistula removal.

Additional Reading