Crohn’s Disease

Know More: Crohn's Disease

Trustworthy information, straight from the source. Education is the first step in an empowering healthcare plan. Learn more about Crohn’s disease from prevention to diagnosis and treatment.

Man with stomach pain

Condition Overview

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease of the digestive system. Crohn’s disease causes the lining of your intestines to become inflamed. The lining of your mouth, esophagus, or stomach may also be affected by Crohn’s disease.

What causes Crohn’s disease?

It is not known exactly what causes Crohn’s disease. A family history of Crohn’s disease increases your risk. Your immune system may overreact to bacteria or a virus in the digestive tract and cause inflammation and injury. Smoking also increases your risk for Crohn’s disease.

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

What are the signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease?

You may have different symptoms at different times. Your symptoms may come and go with quiet and active periods. Over time, active periods may occur more often and symptoms may be more severe. The most common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Cramping pain on the lower right side of your abdomen.
  • Diarrhea that may be dark or tar-colored, or blood in your bowel movements.
  • Fever.
  • More tired than usual.
  • Loss of appetite, losing weight without trying, or slow growth in children.
  • Nausea.

How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?

  • Blood tests may be needed to check for infection or health problems caused by Crohn’s disease, such as low iron levels.
  • A bowel movement sample may show if bacteria are causing your illness.
  • A colonoscopy is a test that is done to look at your colon. A tube with a light on the end will be put into your anus, and then moved forward into your colon.
  • A barium enema is an x-ray of the colon. A tube is put into your anus, and a liquid called barium is put through the tube. Barium is used so that your healthcare provider can see your colon better.
  • A barium swallow is an X-ray of your throat and esophagus. This test may also be called a barium esophagram. You will drink a thick liquid called barium. Barium helps your esophagus and stomach show up better on X-rays. Follow the instructions of your healthcare provider before and after the test.
  • An endoscopy is a test that uses a scope to see the inside of your digestive tract, including the esophagus and stomach. Samples may be taken from your digestive tract and sent to a lab for tests. Bleeding may also be treated during an endoscopy.
  • MRI or CT pictures may be taken of your digestive system and other organs. You may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • An ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to look at pictures of your digestive system.

How is Crohn’s disease treated?

  • Medicines may be used to decrease inflammation in your digestive tract. You may need antibiotics to treat or prevent an infection and antidiarrheal medicine to decrease diarrhea. Immunosuppressants may also be given to slow your immune system.
  • Surgery may be needed to decrease your symptoms or to correct problems such as blockage or bleeding. Your healthcare provider may remove the diseased part of your intestines and reconnect the healthy parts. You may also need to have a colostomy

What medicines are commonly used to treat Crohn’s disease?

  • Aminosalicylates stop your immune system from releasing substances that can cause inflammation.
  • Antibiotics treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Antidiarrheal medicine is given to decrease diarrhea.
  • Steroids may be given to decrease inflammation.
  • Antitumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) medicine blocks inflammation.
  • Immunosuppressants may be given to slow your immune system.
  • Nutritional supplements, such as vitamins or minerals, may be given.

What tests are used to diagnose Crohn’s disease?

  • Blood tests may be needed to check for infection or health problems caused by Crohn’s disease, such as low iron levels.
  • A bowel movement sample may show if bacteria are causing your illness.
  • A colonoscopy is a test that is done to look at your colon. A tube with a light on the end will be put into your anus, and then moved forward into your colon.
  • A barium enema is an X-ray of the colon. A tube is put into your anus, and a liquid called barium is put through the tube. Barium is used so that healthcare providers can see your colon better.
  • A barium swallow is an X-ray of your throat and esophagus. This test may also be called a barium esophagram. You will drink a thick liquid called barium. Barium helps your esophagus and stomach show up better on X-rays. Follow the instructions of your healthcare provider before and after the test.
  • An endoscopy is a test that uses a scope to see the inside of your digestive tract, including the esophagus and stomach. Samples may be taken from your digestive tract and sent to a lab for tests. Bleeding may also be treated during an endoscopy.
  • MRI or CT pictures may be taken of your digestive system and other organs. You may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • An ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to look at pictures of your digestive system.

Preparing for Care

When should I seek immediate care for Crohn’s disease?

  • You suddenly have trouble breathing.
  • You vomit blood, or your vomit looks like coffee grounds.
  • You have a fast heart rate, fast breathing, or are too dizzy to stand.
  • You have severe pain in your stomach.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have tar-colored bowel movements or you see blood in your bowel movements.
  • You have a fever or chills.
  • The pain in your abdomen does not go away or gets worse after you take medicine.
  • Your abdomen is swollen.
  • You are losing weight without trying.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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