Overview

Crohn’s disease, a chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), causes inflammation in the GI tract. The inflammation is most commonly found in the small intestine and the first section of the large intestine, but Crohn’s can occur anywhere from the mouth to the anus.

Causes

At this time, the exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown. Researchers believe that several more recent findings hold the most promise for identifying causes. In an autoimmune reaction, researchers believe that something triggers the immune system to attack the inner lining of the intestine rather than a foreign body. Genetics could play a role since Crohn’s, as it sometimes runs in families. Environmental factors, such as long term use of some types of medications and a habitually high fat diet may play a role in developing the disease.

Risk Factors

Crohn’s Disease can occur at any age, but it is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 20-29, who have a parent or sibling with IBD, and smoke cigarettes.

Symptoms

Abdominal cramping and pain, diarrhea, and weight loss are the most common symptoms of Crohn’s Disease. Other symptoms vary widely among patients depending on the severity of their disease. Symptoms include anemia, fever, nausea, fatigue, joint pain, and eye irritation. Changes in bowel habits that do not clear up in a short period of time should always be reported to your physician.

Screening and Diagnosis

Your doctor will take a detailed family history and perform a physical exam. A variety of tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other illnesses

Treatment

There are medications, including biologics, that can help to control the symptoms, spark a remission, and improve the patient’s quality of life. There is currently no cure of Crohn’s disease. Intense symptoms may require hospitalization for bowel rest or even surgery.