Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is a chronic illness. It can be managed, but not cured. The intestine or bowel becomes inflamed and ulcerated.

The cause of Crohn's disease is not known. It is likely that there is a genetic component. About 20 percent of people with Crohn's disease have a blood relative with a form of IBD. People of Jewish heritage have a greater risk of developing Crohn's. It can occur at any age, but is most commonly diagnosed in people who are between the ages of 20 and 30.

The symptoms of Crohn's disease depend on where in the bowel the disease occurs. They also depend on its severity. Symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain and tenderness (often on the lower right side of the abdomen)
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Fistulas
  • Feeling of a mass or fullness in the lower right abdomen
  • Fever
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Weight loss

Other symptoms can develop, depending on complications related to the disease. A person with a fistula may have pain and discharge around the rectum.

A number of tests are used to distinguish Crohn's disease from other gastrointestinal conditions. First, we will review your medical history. After a physical examination is done, we may order the following tests:

  • Endoscopy (such as colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy): During this procedure, a flexible, lighted tube called an endoscope is inserted into the rectum and used to view the inside of the rectum and colon. A colonoscopy shows a greater portion of the colon than a sigmoidoscopy does. A small sample of tissue may be taken for biopsy testing.
  • Blood tests: When testing the blood, we will look for signs of anemia or a high white blood cell count. That would indicate inflammation or infection somewhere in the body.
  • Barium X-ray (barium enema or small bowel series): X-rays are often taken of either the upper or lower intestine. Barium coats the lining of the small intestine and colon and shows up white on an X-ray. This characteristic enables us to view any abnormalities.