About Crohn's Disease

Understanding Crohn's Disease

Outline of crowd.
780K
Number of Americans affected by Crohn's disease (CD). Crohn's disease can occur at any age, but is more prevalent in young adults.

The Causes of Crohn's Disease

The true causes of Crohn's disease are not completely understood. What we do know is that if you or a close relative have the disease, your family members may be at an increased chance of Crohn's. Researchers believe that a combination of hereditary, genetic, and/or environmental factors may contribute to the development of Crohn's disease. Diet and stress may aggravate Crohn's disease, but they do not cause the disease on their own.

How Crohn's Disease Affects You

Crohn's disease is the result of an abnormal immune system response, during which your body mistakes certain bacteria and other materials in the intestine for foreign or invading substances. It then sends white blood cells into the intestines, where they create inflammation. Normally, this would cause a temporary inflammation that would resolve itself. But with Crohn's disease, researchers believe that once your immune system is "turned on," it doesn't know how to "properly turn off." As a result, chronic inflammation damages the intestine and causes the symptoms of Crohn's disease.

Crohn's disease can affect the thickness of the bowel wall in any part of the GI tract and the inflammation it causes can "skip"—leaving normal areas in between patches of diseased intestine.
How Crohn's disease may affect you.
Crohn's disease most commonly affects the end of the small bowel (the ileum) and the beginning of the colon.

Crohn's disease is a chronic disease, and some patients may experience worsening of the disease over time.

  • Even if you feel fine and symptoms are limited, there may still be underlying, damaging inflammation
  • Your Crohn's disease may not be under control if you're taking special steps to accommodate your symptoms, such as:
    • Avoiding eating
    • Making sure you always know where the nearest bathroom is
    • Always carrying a change of clothes

It's important to understand how your condition is affecting you so you can explain it to your doctor. Use the doctor discussion guide to help you prepare for your discussion with your doctor.