What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn’s disease is a condition where the body's immune system gets confused and attacks cells in the gut. This causes inflammation in the gut, which makes it sore, red and swollen. The swelling can happen anywhere between the mouth and the anus, but mainly affects the small and large bowels.

An ongoing condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, also called the GI tract. It can affect any part of the GI tract—from the mouth to the anus. It often affects the lower part of the small intestine, causing pain and diarrhea.

This answer is based upon source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

Crohn’s disease, also known as inflammatory bowel disease, is a chronic autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system attacks the body’s own cells. Although it can occur in any part of the gastrointestinal tract, the condition usually occurs in the ileum, which is the part of the gastrointestinal tract where the small and large intestines meet. Crohn’s disease can cause inflammation, thickening of the intestinal wall and the formation of deep ulcers.

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD
Emergency Medicine Specialist

Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder, in which your immune system literally attacks the cells lining your digestive tract. That leads to ulcerations and bleeding of the digestive tract, and even other complications such as infections, abscesses, fistulas and blockages.

Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue and weight loss. Many patients with Crohn's also have symptoms that are outside the digestive tract, such as mouth sores, rashes, joint pain and eye problems.

There is no cure for Crohn’s, but there are medications that patients can take to modulate the immune system’s response and improve their symptoms. Another thing you can do is monitor your symptoms to see if any specific foods worsen the condition, and cut back on them. It’s also important to quit smoking. Smoking worsens symptoms and increases the chance you’ll need surgery.

Most patients with Crohn's need to be followed closely by a gastroenterologist, who can monitor their symptoms, guide them through treatment and help keep them on track and as symptom-free as possible. 

Crohn's disease is the inflammation of the lining and walls of the large and/or small intestine. It may also affect other parts of the digestive system and can spread deep into the tissue. The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease are diarrhea and abdominal pain, usually on the left lower side of the abdomen. In more severe cases of Crohn's disease, the inflammation may cause stricturing (a narrowing of the intestines caused by excess scar tissue) and fistulas (inflammatory tunnels that burrow through the intestines to either the skin or the bladder).

Crohn's disease can cause bleeding in the GI tract, which may lead to anemia (a loss of red blood cells resulting in extreme tiredness or fatigue). This disease also can cause nausea, vomiting, fever, weight loss (because the intestines may not be able to absorb enough nutrients from food), joint pain and skin problems.

Crohn's disease is a chronic, inflammatory disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Crohn's disease can involve any part of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus.

There are about anywhere from 10,000 to 47,000 new diagnoses of Crohn’s disease annually. There is unfortunately no cure for Crohn's disease, so oftentimes, the medications that get you better have to be coupled with medications that keep you better. You will also need close monitoring for side effects and disease activity, because up to 75 percent of people who have Crohn's disease will require at least one surgery.

It's a very aggressive disease process, and without appropriate monitoring, medications and oftentimes appropriate surgery, Crohn's disease, if left untreated and uncontrolled, can have severe consequences.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.