What is Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's is an unpredictable, chronic (lifelong) disease that causes inflammation of the digestive system, or gastrointestinal
(GI) tract. The GI tract runs from the mouth to the anus, and includes the stomach
Crohn's disease belongs to a larger group of illnesses called inflammatory bowel
Types of Crohn's disease
There are five types of Crohn's disease, determined by which part of the gastrointestinal
(GI) tract is affected. Symptoms may vary by type of Crohn's disease.
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Prevalence of Crohn's disease
About 500,000 adult Americans have Crohn's disease, with males and females affected equally.
Crohn's disease may occur in people of all ages, but it is usually diagnosed between
the ages of 15 and 35.
Who gets Crohn's disease?
Though the cause of Crohn's disease is not fully understood, researchers believe
it to be a result of a combination of factors involving inherited genes, the environment,
and a malfunctioning immune system. Here are some of the things that are known:
- About 20 to 25 percent of patients have a close relative with either Crohn's or
- A person's risk of having Crohn's is about 10 times greater than that of the general
population if they have a relative with Crohn's.
- A person's risk of having Crohn's is 30 times greater if the relative with Crohn's
is a brother or sister.
- Researchers believe more than one gene may be linked to Crohn's disease.
The prevalence of Crohn's disease among Hispanics and Asians is lower than those
for Caucasians and African-Americans. However, American Jews of European descent
are four to five times more likely to develop Crohn's disease than the general population.
Crohn's disease is found mostly in the United States and Europe. It is more common
in urban than in rural areas, and more common in northern than in southern climates.
Some people believe that Crohn's disease may be caused by the foods we eat. However,
there is no evidence that any particular foods cause or contribute to Crohn's disease.
Often Crohn's patients are able to identify certain foods that may worsen symptoms
during an active flare, but they are not a cause of the disease.
Crohn's disease diagnosis
To diagnose Crohn's disease, doctors evaluate the patient's history, physical exams,
and a variety of laboratory tests.
Crohn's has been historically difficult to diagnose, because symptoms vary from patient to patient, and because it can be
similar to other conditions. However, with more up-to-date methods used by gastroenterologists who specialize in Crohn's disease and other
inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), it may be easier to get a definitive Crohn's