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).
Ulcerative colitis is a related condition.
The exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. It is a condition that occurs when your body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue (autoimmune disorder).
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.
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.
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. Include enough calories, protein, and 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 disease. Other stressful events in your life, such as moving, a job loss, or the loss of a loved one can worsen 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, such as:
Some people with Crohn's disease may need surgery to remove a damaged or diseased part of the intestine (bowel resection). In some cases the entire large intestine (colon) is removed, with or without the rectum.
Patients who have Crohn's disease that does not respond to medications may need surgery to treat problems such as:
Surgeries that may be done include:
There is no cure for Crohn's disease. The condition is marked by periods of improvement followed by flare-ups of symptoms.
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:
Inflammatory bowel disease - Crohn's disease; Regional enteritis; Ileitis; Granulomatous ileocolitis; IBD- Crohn's disease
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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.
Lichenstein GR. Inflammatory bowel disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 143.
Updated by: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.
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