Crohn’s Disease: What You Need to Know

Crohn’s disease is a kind of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). As many as 780,000 Americans have the ailment, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).

More research regarding Crohn’s illness is important. Researchers aren’t clear how it originates, who is most likely to develop it, or how to effectively control it. Despite considerable therapy improvements in the last 3 decades, no cure is available yet.

Crohn’s disease most usually arises in the small intestine and the colon. It can affect any portion of your gastrointestinal (GI) system, from the mouth to the anus. It can include some regions of the GI tract and skip other parts.

The range of severity for Crohn’s is minimal to devastating. Symptoms vary and can alter over time. In severe cases, the disease can lead to life threatening flares and complications.

Here’s everything you need to know about Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s Disease symptoms

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease often develop gradually. Certain symptoms may also become worse over time. Although it’s possible, it’s rare for symptoms to develop suddenly and dramatically. The earliest symptoms of Crohn’s disease can include:

  1. diarrhea
  2. abdominal cramps
  3. blood in your stool
  4. fever
  5. fatigue
  6. loss of appetite
  7. weight loss
  8. feeling as if your bowels aren’t emptied after a bowel movement
  9. feeling a frequent urge for bowel motions

It’s sometimes tempting to mistake these symptoms for those of another ailment, such as food poisoning, an upset stomach, or an allergy. You should see your doctor if any of these symptoms persist.

The symptoms may grow more severe as the condition advances. More problematic symptoms may include:

  1. a perianal fistula, which causes pain and discharge near your anus
  2. ulcers that may form everywhere from the mouth to the anus
  3. inflammation of the joints and skin
  4. shortness of breath or diminished capacity to exercise owing to anemia

Early detection and diagnosis can help you prevent severe problems and allow you to begin treatment early.

What causes Crohn’s disease?

It isn’t clear what causes Crohn’s disease. However, the following things may influence your odds of having it:

  1. your immune system
  2. your genes
  3. your environment

Up to 20 percent of persons with Crohn’s disease also have a parent, child, or sibling with the disease, according to the CCFA.

According to a 2012 study, some things can affect the severity of your symptoms. These include:

  1. whether you smoke
  2. your age
  3. whether or not the rectum is involved
  4. length of time you’ve had the ailment

People with Crohn’s are also more likely to get intestinal infections from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungus. This might affect the severity of symptoms and generate consequences.

Crohn’s disease and its medications can also impair the immune system, making many types of infections worse.

Yeast infections are frequent in Crohn’s and can affect both the lungs and the digestive system. It’s crucial that these infections are recognized and adequately treated with antifungal drugs to prevent further consequences.

Is Crohn’s an autoimmune condition?

An autoimmune disorder causes your immune system to wrongly assault your body, sometimes producing inflammation. Though the immune system could be a potential contributor to inflammation in Crohn’s, it has not yet been categorized as an autoimmune disorder as the mechanisms are still not entirely known.

Crohn’s diagnosis

No single test result is adequate for your doctor to identify Crohn’s disease. They will begin by removing other probable reasons of your symptoms.

Your doctor may use various sorts of testing to make a diagnosis:

  • Blood tests can help your doctor check for particular markers of potential disorders, such as anemia and inflammation.
  • A stool test can help your doctor discover blood in your GI system.
  • Your doctor may request an endoscopy to gain a better look of the inside of your upper gastrointestinal system.
  • Your doctor may request a colonoscopy to inspect the large bowel.
  • Imaging exams like CT scans and MRI scans provide your doctor more detail than a regular X-ray. Both tests let your doctor to observe particular parts of your tissues and organs.
  • Your doctor will likely have a tissue sample, or biopsy, taken during an endoscopy or colonoscopy for a deeper look at your intestinal tract tissue.

Once your doctor has done examining all the necessary tests and ruled out any possible reasons for your symptoms, they may conclude that you have Crohn’s disease.

Your doctor may go on to request these tests several more times to look for afflicted tissue and establish how the disease is progressing.

The Healthroute Find Care tool can provide options in your region if you need help finding a primary care doctor or a gastroenterologist.

Treatment for Crohn’s disease

A cure for Crohn’s disease isn’t available yet, but the disease can be managed. A variety of therapeutic alternatives available that help minimize the severity and frequency of your symptoms.


Several types of drugs are available to treat Crohn’s. Antidiarrheal and anti-inflammatory medicines are routinely utilized. More advanced alternatives include biologics, which use the body’s immune system to treat the condition.

The medications, or mix of medications, you need depend on your symptoms, your disease history, the severity of your condition, and how you respond to treatment.

Anti-inflammatory medications

The two primary types of anti-inflammatory medications doctors use to treat Crohn’s are oral 5-aminosalicylates and corticosteroids. Anti-inflammatory medications are often the first drugs you take for Crohn’s disease treatment.

You normally take these medications when you have modest symptoms with infrequent illness flares. Corticosteroids are used for more severe symptoms but should only be used for a limited time.


An hyperactive immune system creates the inflammation that contributes to the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Drugs that alter the immune system, called immunomodulators, may lessen the inflammatory response and limit your immune system’s reaction.


Some doctors believe antibiotics may help minimize some of the symptoms of Crohn’s and some of the possible triggers for it.

For example, medicines help minimize drainage and mend fistulas, which are irregular connections between tissues that Crohn’s can develop.

Biologic treatments

If you have severe Crohn’s, your doctor may attempt one of a range of biologic medicines to manage the inflammation and complications that can result from the disease. Biologic medicines can block particular proteins that may promote inflammation.


If less intrusive therapies and lifestyle changes don’t help your symptoms, surgery may be indicated. Ultimately, roughly 75 percent of patients with Crohn’s disease will require surgery at some time in their lives, according to the CCFA.

Some methods of surgery for Crohn’s include removing damaged pieces of your digestive tract and reconnecting the healthy ones. Other operations restore injured tissue, regulate scar tissue, or cure deep infections.


Food doesn’t cause Crohn’s disease, although it can provoke flares.

After a Crohn’s diagnosis, your doctor will likely suggest booking an appointment with a registered dietitian (RD). An RD will help you understand how food may affect your symptoms and how your diet may benefit you.

In the beginning, they may require you to keep a food journal. This food journal will describe what you ate and how it made you feel.

Using this information, the RD will help you establish an eating plan. These dietary changes should help you absorb more nutrients from the food you eat while also limiting any unwanted side effects food may be creating.

Read on for additional information about an eating plan for Crohn’s.

Crohn’s disease diet

A food plan that works for one individual with Crohn’s disease may not work for another. This is because the disease might involve different sections of the GI tract in different persons.

It’s vital to find out what works best for you. This can be done by keeping track of your symptoms as you add or remove certain foods from your diet. Lifestyle and food adjustments may help you limit the recurrence of symptoms and lessen their intensity.

Adjust fiber intake

Some people need a high fiber, high protein diet. For others, the presence of excess food residue from high fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables may exacerbate the GI system. If this is the case, you may need to convert to a low residue diet.

ResearchTrusted Source on this particular diet has been mixed, so check with your doctor about your personal needs.

Limit fat intake

Crohn’s disease may interfere with your body’s ability to break down and absorb fat. This excess fat will travel from your small intestine to your colon, which can cause diarrhea.

However, a 2017 study on mice revealed that a diet higher in plant-based lipids had the potential to affect the gut microbiome in good ways for Crohn’s disease. More study is needed and your doctor or an RD can help guide you in your fat intake.

Limit dairy intake

Previously, you may not have experienced lactose intolerance, but your body can develop difficultyTrusted Source digesting some dairy products when you have Crohn’s disease. Consuming dairy can lead to an upset stomach, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea for some people.

Drink enough water

Crohn’s disease may decrease your body’s capacity to absorb water from your digestive tract. This can lead to dehydration. The risk of dehydration is especially great if you’re suffering diarrhea or bleeding.

Consider other sources of vitamins and minerals

Crohn’s disease can damage your intestines’ ability to properly absorb other nutrients from your meals. Eating nutrient-dense foods may not be enough. Talk with your doctor about taking multivitamins to find out if this is suitable for you.

Work with your doctor to figure out what best matches your needs. They may direct you to an RD or nutritionist. Together, you can determine your dietary plan and create guidelines for a balanced diet.

Natural remedies for Crohn’s

Some people utilize complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to assist manage symptoms of numerous ailments and disorders, including Crohn’s disease.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t licensed them for treatment, but some people use them in addition to mainstream drugs.

Don’t add any additional treatments to your current treatment regimen without consulting your doctor.

Some CAM treatments for Crohn’s disease include:

  • Probiotics. These are live bacteria that can help you replace and repair the healthy bacteria in your intestinal system. Probiotics may also help prevent germs from disturbing your gut’s natural balance and producing a Crohn’s flare. Scientific data about effectiveness is scarce.
  • Prebiotics. These are potentially helpful compounds found in plants, such as asparagus, bananas, artichokes, and leeks, that help feed the healthy bacteria in your stomach and boost their numbers.
  • Fish oil. Fish oil is high in omega-3s. According to a 2017 report, research is ongoing into its possible treatment of Crohn’s disease. Oily fish like salmon and mackerel are high in omega-3s. You may find fish oil supplements online.
  • Supplements. Many people feel specific herbs, vitamins, and minerals improve the symptoms of a number of ailments, including inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease. Research is underway as to which supplements may be effective.
  • Aloe Vera. Some claim that the aloe vera plant contains anti-inflammatory qualities. Because inflammation is one of the primary components of Crohn’s disease, patients may utilize it as a natural anti-inflammatory. However, there is no current study that claims aloe vera helps with Crohn’s.
  • Acupuncture. This is the process of strategically putting needles in the skin to stimulate specific locations on the body. A 2014 study indicated that acupuncture, along with moxibustion — a sort of traditional Chinese treatment that includes burning dried medicinal herbs on or near your skin — improves symptoms of Crohn’s disease. More research is needed.

Tell your doctor if you utilize any CAM treatments or over-the-counter drugs. Some of these drugs can impair the efficacy of medications or other therapies. In some situations, an interaction or side effect could be harmful, or even life threatening.

Crohn’s surgery

Surgery for Crohn’s disease is considered a last-resort treatment, yet three-quarters of patients with Crohn’s will ultimately need some type of surgery to cure symptoms or complications.

Once drugs are no longer working or side effects have become too severe to treat, your doctor may consider one of the following operations.

  • Strictureplastywidens and shortens the intestines in an attempt to lessen the consequences of scarring or injury to the tissue.
  • During a bowel resection, parts of diseased intestine are removed. Healthy intestine is sewn together to rebuild the intestines.
  • An ostomy creates a hole through which your body may discharge waste. These are frequently performed when a part of the small or large bowel is removed. They can be permanent or temporary when your doctor wishes to allow your intestines time to heal.
  • colectomy removes parts of the colon that are diseased or damaged.
  • proctocolectomy is surgery to remove the colon and rectum. If you have this operation, you will also need a colostomy (a hole in the large intestine for emptying waste).

Crohn’s disease surgery is helpful for alleviating symptoms, but it’s not without danger. Talk with your doctor about any worries you may have regarding surgery.

What are the varieties of Crohn’s disease?

There are six varieties of Crohn’s disease, all based on location in the digestive system. They are:

  • Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease. This unusual ailment mainly affects your stomach and the duodenum, which is the initial part of your small intestine.
  • Jejunoileitis. This type occurs in the second region of your gut, termed the jejunum. Like gastroduodenal Crohn’s, this type is less prevalent.
  • Ileitis. Ileitis involves inflammation in the terminal section of the small intestine, or ileum.
  • Ileocolitis. This affects the ileum and the colon and is the most prevalent variant of Crohn’s.
  • Crohn’s colitis. This affects the colon alone. Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s colitis harm the colon alone, but Crohn’s colitis can affect deeper layers of the intestinal lining.
  • Perianal disease. This commonly comprises fistulas, or irregular connections between tissues, deep tissue infections, as well as sores and ulcers on the outer skin around the anus.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) are two kinds of IBD. They have many of the same traits. You may even mistake them for one another.

They have the following traits in common:

  • The earliest indications and symptoms of both Crohn’s disease and UC are extremely similar. These can include diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, rectal bleeding, weight loss, and exhaustion.
  • Both UC and Crohn’s disease occur more commonly in adults ages 15 to 35 and people with a family history of either kind of IBD.
  • In general, IBD seems to affect all sexes equally, but this can vary depending on age.
  • Despite decades of investigation, scientists still don’t know what causes each disease. In both cases, an overactive immune system is a potential reason, but other factors certainly play a role.

Here’s how they differ:

  • UC only affects the colon. Crohn’s disease can affect any region of your GI system, from the mouth to the anus.
  • UC only affects the exterior layer of tissue lining your colon called the mucosa. Crohn’s disease can affect all the layers of your digestive tissue from superficial to deep.

UC is simply one type of colon inflammation. Several more kinds of colitis exist. Not all varieties of colitis create the same type of intestinal inflammation and damage as UC.

Crohn’s disease statistics

The CCFA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source report the following statistics:

  1. Around 3 million Americans have some kind of IBD. This amount includes nearly 780,000 Americans who have Crohn’s disease.
  2. People who actively smoke are twice as likely to acquire a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease.
  3. If the ailment is treated — medically or surgically — 50 percent of persons with Crohn’s disease will go into remission or experience only minimal symptoms within 5 years of their diagnosis.
  4. About 11 percent of patients who have Crohn’s will endure a chronically active disease.

The CCFA also reports:

  1. In 2004, 1.1 million doctors’ office visits were for the treatment and care of Crohn’s disease.
  2. In 2010, Crohn’s disease accounted for 187,000 hospitalizations.
  3. The average person with Crohn’s disease will spend between $8,265 and $18,963 year to treat or manage their disease, based 2003–04 U.S. insurance claims statistics.

According to 2016 data:

  1. Crohn’s disease occurs about as frequently in men as in women.
  2. Two out of three patients with Crohn’s disease will acquire a diagnosis before the age of 40.

Meeting individuals within the Crohn’s community can be really useful. IBD Healthline is a free app that links you with individuals who understand what you’re going through via one-on-one messaging, live group discussions, and expert-approved information on managing IBD.

Crohn’s disease and disability

Crohn’s illness might interrupt your career and personal life. It can also cause financial stress. If you don’t have health insurance (and occasionally even if you do), your out-of-pocket payments can exceed several thousand dollars per year.

If the sickness grows serious enough that it’s hurting your everyday life in a meaningful way, consider filing for disability.

If you can prove that your condition prohibits you from working or has prohibited you from working for the last year, you may be entitled to receive disability income. Social Security Disability Insurance or Social Security Income can provide this form of help.

Unfortunately, applying for disability may be a long and laborious procedure. It takes dozens of appointments with your doctors. You may have to pay for many doctors’ visits if you don’t have insurance. You’ll need to take time off of work if you’re currently employed.

Be aware that you may have a lot of ups and downs as you move through the process. You can even be denied and have to begin the whole process again. If you feel it’s the appropriate choice for you, you may begin your Social Security application procedure by performing one of the following:

Crohn’s disease in children

Most people with Crohn’s disease obtain a diagnosis in their 20s and 30s, but IBD can develop in children, too. Approximately 1 in 4 patients with an IBD develop symptoms before age 20, according to a 2016 analysis.

Crohn’s disease that solely concerns the colon is frequent in children and adolescents. That means distinguishing between Crohn’s and UC is difficult until the youngster begins showing other symptoms.

Proper treatment for Crohn’s disease in children is vital because untreated Crohn’s can lead to growth delays and damaged bones. It may also cause severe emotional discomfort at this period in life. Treatments include:

  • antibiotics
  • aminosalicylates
  • biologics
  • immunomodulators
  • steroids
  • nutrition plans

Crohn’s medications can have some significant side effects on children. It’s crucial you work closely with your child’s doctor to find the proper solutions.


Research is currently ongoing to identify more effective therapies and maybe an ultimate cure for Crohn’s disease. But symptoms can be successfully treated and remission is possible.

Your doctor can help guide you in identifying the proper drugs, alternative treatments, and lifestyle adjustments that can help.

If you’re having gastrointestinal issues, speak with your doctor to establish the source and potential remedies.

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