Crohn’s Disease is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that causes chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Common signs of Crohn’s include abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, rectal bleeding or the urgent need to move bowels. Crohn’s can also be accompanied by a range of systemic symptoms such as fever, fatigue or loss of appetite and/or weight. Crohn’s affects approximately 700,000 people in the United States.
Crohn’s can be diagnosed at any age, though it often first appears between the ages of 15-35. There is no single test that will automatically determine whether or not someone has Crohn’s, though doctors may use bloodwork and/or imaging tests such as X-rays or colonoscopies to reach a diagnosis. While there is no “cure,” a variety of treatments have been proven to help relieve and treat symptoms. A main goal in treatment of Crohn’s disease is controlling the inflammation, which can be achieved with prescription and/or over-the-counter medication. About 60-75% of Crohn’s patients undergo surgery at some point in their lives to correct complications caused by the disease.
People with Crohn’s often experience the disease in cycles, involving periods of inflammation and symptom flare-ups followed by periods of remission. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the individual. Feeling tired or low on energy is common and younger children with the disease may have growth and developmental delays. The extent to which Crohn’s impacts a person’s lifestyle varies. Some individuals may not need to make any lifestyle changes while others have to completely change their diet or cut back on activities.
There are a variety of advocacy and awareness groups dedicated to Crohn’s (and often other IBD’s). Several foundations also support and fund continued medical research on this disease.