Crohn's Disease

Click on a question to see the answer.

What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammation (frequently recurrent, although this is difficult to predict) affecting the intestinal tract. It has been shown that it can involve any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. It mostly involves the last part of the small intestine (ileum) and/or the large intestine (colon and rectum). It usually affects younger patients (16-40) however other age groups are not immune to it. The cause is unknown.

What are the symptoms of Crohn's disease?

Symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, weight loss, bloating, anal pain or drainage, skin lesions, rectal abscess, fissure, and joint pain (arthritis).

Is there a genetic predisposition for getting Crohn's disease?

About 20 percent of people with Crohn's disease have a relative with some form of inflammatory bowel disease. (Crohn's or ulcerative colitis)

What treatments are available?

Initial treatment depends on how the disease presents itself. Most of the time treatment starts with medications and occasionally with a surgical procedure. The most common drugs prescribed are corticosteroids, such as prednisone and methylprednisolone, but increasingly remicade and other biologic agents including immunosuppressive agents are being used. Metronidazole, an antibiotic with immune system effects, is frequently helpful in patients with anal disease.

Surgery is sometimes necessary to repair a perforation of the intestine, obstruction (blockage) of the bowel, abnormal communication from the intestine (fistula), severe anal disease, significant bleeding, or persistence of the disease despite appropriate drug treatment. In spite of the fact that the medication is preferred to surgical intervention, it is important to realize that under certain circumstances surgery offers long-term relief of symptoms and eliminates the need for medications that may have substantial side effects.