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Crohn Disease: At a Glance

By The Manual's Editorial Staff,

Crohn disease is chronic inflammation of the intestinal wall that typically involves the lower part of the small intestine, the upper part of the large intestine, or both but may affect any part of the digestive tract.

In the past few decades, Crohn disease has become more common worldwide. However, it is most common among people of Northern European and Anglo-Saxon descent. It occurs about equally in both sexes, often runs in families, and seems to be more common among Ashkenazi Jews.

Most people develop Crohn disease before age 30, usually between the ages of 14 and 24.

For a full discussion, see Crohn disease.

What Are Some Symptoms of Crohn Disease?

  • Chronic diarrhea (sometimes bloody)

  • Crampy abdominal pain

  • Fever

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

Did You Know...

  • In children, the main symptoms of Crohn disease may be slow growth, joint inflammation, and fever.

How Is Crohn Disease Diagnosed?

A doctor may suspect Crohn disease in a person with recurring crampy abdominal pain and diarrhea, particularly if the person has a family history of Crohn disease. An imaging test (such as computed tomography, barium x-rays, wireless capsule endoscopy, or colonoscopy) and a biopsy are done to confirm the diagnosis.

Viewing the Digestive Tract With an Endoscope

A flexible tube called an endoscope is used to view different parts of the digestive tract. When passed through the mouth, an endoscope can be used to examine the esophagus, the stomach, and some of the small intestine. When passed through the anus, an endoscope can be used to examine the rectum and the entire large intestine.

How Do People With Crohn Disease Fare?

Crohn disease has no known cure, and flare-ups may occur at irregular intervals throughout a person's life. Flare-ups may be mild or severe, few or frequent. Crohn disease usually does not shorten a person's life.

Many treatments, including changes in diet and drugs, help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms.

About half of people diagnosed with Crohn disease require surgery at some point.

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