What is Crohn's Disease?

(Brief Summary)

Crohn's Disease (CD) is a disorder of the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract. It can affect any portion of the GI tract -- from the lips to the anus. Most often, it affects the region where the small intestine changes into the large intestine.

Tractus intestinalis cecum

Patches of inflammation appear, extending through every layer of affected bowel tissue

Smallintestine layers2

Common Symptoms:

Loss of appetite,
Abdominal cramps,
Diarrhea and weight loss.
Joint Problems

Periods of "flare-ups" alternate with "remissions" that can last anywhere from weeks to years. Most people will "relapse" and have multiple attacks. The severity of IBD symptoms will also vary from one person to another. Some people have mild symptoms and can be treated with a combination of drugs and nutritional therapy, while others experience debilitating symptoms and need to take potent drugs, visit hospital frequently, and/or have surgery.

In addition, some patients may experience nausea, vomiting or bloating. Others may develop abscesses or draining skin openings in the area around the anus, so-called "perianal disease". Unexplained fevers, pain or swelling of the joints and anemia can also occur. Children with Crohn's disease may grow more slowly than their peers, and puberty may start late, but most will eventually catch up.

The symptoms and possible complications will vary, depending on the part of the intestinal tract that is inflamed. Because of this, it is very important for you to know which part of your intestine is affected by the disease

What CD do you Have

Gastroduodenal Crohn's Disease -- Affects the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine).

Symptoms/Complications: Pain in the upper middle part of the abdomen may occur infrequently; significant weight loss; loss of appetite; nausea. Vomiting may indicate that strictures (narrowed segments of bowel) are obstructed. Typically identified as "ulcer disease" and usually diagnosed only after ulcer treatments fail.

Jejunoileitis -- Patchy areas of inflammation in the jejunum (upper half of the small intestine).

Symptoms/Complications: Abominal pain and cramps after meals (pain can range from mild to intense, depending on disease severity). Fistulas (abnormal channels between two loops of intestine, or between the intestine and other organs) may form. Diarrhea and malabsorption may lead to weight loss and malnutrition.

Ileitis -- Affects the ileum (the lower part of the small intestine).

Symptoms/Complications: Diarrhea; cramping or pain in the right lower part or middle of the abdomen, often after meals (intensity varies according to disease severity); iron and/or vitamin B-12 deficiency; obstruction; fistulas; inflammatory mass or abscess in the right lower quadrant of the abdomen.

Ileocolitis -- The most common form of Crohn's, affecting the ileum and colon.

Symptoms/Complications: Same as ileitis; significant weight loss also is common.

Crohn's (Granulomatous) Colitis -- Affects the colon only.

Symptoms/Complications: Diarrhea; rectal bleeding; disease around the anus (e.g., abscess, fistulas, ulcers). Some extraintestinal complications (e.g., skin lesions, joint pains) are more common in this type of IBD.