Crohn's disease is a severe, chronic inflammatory bowel disease. It causes inflammation, ulcers, and bleeding in the digestive tract. It usually affects the end portion of the small intestine called the ileum. However, any part of the digestive tract can be affected, from the mouth to the anus.
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The cause of Crohn's disease is not known. Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, seem to run in some families. Some researchers think that it is due to a reaction to a virus or bacteria that causes the immune system to overreact and damage the intestines.
People of Jewish heritage are more likely to get Crohn's disease. Your risk may also be increased if you have family members with inflammatory bowel disease or other autoimmune diseases.
Complications of untreated Crohn's disease may lead to:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If you are diagnosed with Crohn's disease, testing can be used to monitor the disease and assess complications.
Tests may include:
Imaging tests evaluate the intestines and surrounding structures. These may include:
A biopsy may be taken during some of the these tests. A biopsy is a sample of the intestinal tissue that can be examined under a microscope.
Treatment may include:
Your doctor may advise that you avoid foods that trigger symptoms. These foods are different for each person. They may include:
There are many types of medications that are used to treat Crohn's disease. Examples of these medications include:
Very severe Crohn's may not improve with medications. You may be advised to have the diseased section of your intestine removed. The two remaining healthier ends of the intestine are then joined together. You are still at high risk for the disease returning.
Surgery may also be done if you have an obstruction or fistulas.
American Gastroenterological Association
Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America
Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of Canada
Crohn's disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/crohns/index.aspx. Updated September 3, 2014. Accessed December 18, 2014.
Hou JK, Abraham B, El-Serag H. Dietary intake and risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease: a systematic review of the literature. Am J Gastroenterol. 2011;106(4):563-573.
Understanding inflammatory bowel disease. American Gastroenterological Society website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/info_for_patients/2014/12/12/understanding-inflammatory-bowel-disease. Accessed December 18, 2014.
What is Crohn's disease? Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America website. Available at: http://www.ccfa.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/what-is-crohns-disease. Accessed December 18, 2014.
10/2/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: FDA approves new drug to treat psoriasis. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm183851.htm. Updated April 17, 2013. Accessed December 18, 2014.
11/25/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Khalili H, Ananthakrishnan A, Konijeti GG, et al. Physical activity and risk of inflammatory bowel disease: prospective study from the Nurses' Health Study cohorts. BMJ 2013;347:f6633.
7/6/2015 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Kim DH, Carucci LR, Baker ME, et al. American College of Radiology appropriateness criteria for Crohn disease. Available at: http://www.acr.org/~/media/ACR/Documents/AppCriteria/Diagnostic/CrohnDisease.pdf. Updated 2014. Accessed July 6, 2015.
7/21/2015 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Ungaro R, Bernstein CN, Gearry R, et al. Antibiotics associated with increased risk of new-onset Crohn's disease but not ulcerative colitis: a meta-analysis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2014;109(11):1728-1738.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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