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.
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Fatigue, weakness
- Mouth sores
- Sores, abscesses in the anal area
Complications of untreated Crohn's disease may lead to:
- Fistulas—abnormal connections between the intestine and other organs or tissues, such as the bladder, vagina, or skin
- Intestinal obstruction
- Liver disease
- Bowel perforation
- Kidney stones
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:
- Blood tests
- Stool tests
Imaging tests evaluate the intestines and surrounding structures. These may include:
- Upper gastrointestinal series
- Lower gastrointestinal series
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- CT scan
- MRI scan
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:
- Dairy foods due to lactose intolerance
- Highly seasoned foods
- High-fiber foods
There are many types of medications that are used to treat Crohn's disease. Examples of these medications include:
- Aminosalicylate medications, such as sulfasalazine, mesalamine, and olsalazine
- Anti-inflammatory medications, such as prednisone, methylprednisolone, and budesonide
- Immune modifiers, such as azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine, and methotrexate
- TNF inhibitors, such as infliximab, adalimumab, and certolizumab
- Antibiotics, such as metronidazole, ampicillin, and ciprofloxacin
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.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (CD; Regional Enteritis)
American Gastroenterological Association http://www.gastro.org
Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America http://www.ccfa.org
Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of Canada http://www.ccfc.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
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