Crohn’s Disease – Patient Education Overview

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disorder of the digestive tract (gastrointestinal/GI tract), typically in the lower part of the small intestine or ileum. The swelling penetrates into the intestinal lining. The irritation causes pain and diarrhea from frequent emptying.

Whereas ulcerative colitis has inflammation and ulcers limited to the top-lining layer of the colon, all layers in Crohn’s disease may be affected.

The cause of this disorder is unknown but a well accepted theory is that this is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune cells mistakenly consider bacteria, foods and lining cells as being foreign invaders and attack them, causing extensive inflammation. High levels of Tumor Necrosis Factor have been identified with this condition.

Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Possible fever
  • Possible skin problems
  • Possible arthritis
  • Bleeding
  • Anemia
  • Delayed development and stunted growth in children

The most common complication of Crohn’s disease is an intestinal blockage from swelling and scar tissue causing a narrowing of the intestinal passage. Nutritional deficiencies are also common.

Written by Barbara Hales, MD
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