Crohn's disease is a condition that causes parts of the intestine (bowel) to get
red and swollen. It's a chronic condition, which means it lasts a long time or constantly
comes and goes.
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory
bowel disease (IBD) that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from
mouth to anus (where poop comes out). It's most commonly found at the end of the small
intestine and the beginning of the large intestine. The inflammation of Crohn's disease
damages the entire bowel wall.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Crohn's Disease?
The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease are belly pain and
Other symptoms include:
blood in the toilet, on toilet paper, or in the stool (poop)
nausea or vomiting
skin tags, sores, or drainage around the anus
Because Crohn's disease damages the whole bowel wall, there can be scarring, narrowing
of the bowel, and fistulas. A fistula is an abnormal connection between the bowel
and skin, bladder, vagina, or other loops of bowel. A fistula may leak stool (poop),
pus, or blood.
Crohn's disease can cause other problems, such as rashes, eye problems, joint pain
and arthritis, and kidney
stones and gallstones. Kids with Crohn's disease may not grow as well as other
kids their age and puberty may happen later than normal.
What Causes Crohn's Disease?
The exact cause of Crohn's disease is not clear. It is probably a combination of
genetics, the immune system,
and something in the environment that triggers
in the gastrointestinal tract. Diet and stress may make symptoms worse,
but probably don't cause Crohn's disease.
Who Gets Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's disease tends to run in families. But not everyone with Crohn's disease
has a family history of IBD. Crohn's disease can happen at any age, but is usually
diagnosed in teens and young adults. People who smoke
are more likely to get Crohn's disease.
How Is Crohn's Disease Diagnosed?
Crohn's disease is diagnosed with a combination of blood
tests, stool (poop) tests, and X-rays. Medical imaging tests, such as CT scans
and MRIs, might be done too.
The doctor will check your stool for blood, and might look at your colon with an
instrument called an endoscope, a long, thin tube attached to a TV
monitor. In this procedure, called a colonoscopy, the tube is inserted
through the anus to let the doctor see inflammation, bleeding, or ulcers on the wall
of the colon. During the procedure, the doctor might do a
(taking small tissue samples for further testing).
How Is Crohn's Disease Treated?
Crohn's disease is treated with medicines, changes in diet, and sometimes surgery.
The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms, prevent other problems, and prevent
Your doctor may recommend:
anti-inflammatory drugs to decrease the inflammation
immunosuppressive agents to prevent the immune system from causing further inflammation
biologic agents to block proteins that cause inflammation
nutrition therapy to give the bowel a chance to heal
Because some medicines make it harder to fight infections, it's important that
you be tested for tuberculosis and have all the recommended
vaccines before starting treatment.
Surgery may be necessary if:
the bowel gets a hole
the bowel becomes blocked
a fistula forms
bleeding can't be stopped
symptoms don't respond to treatment
What Else Should I Know About Crohn's Disease?
Poor appetite, diarrhea, and poor digestion of nutrients can make it hard for teens
with Crohn's disease to get the calories and nutrients the body needs.
Be sure to eat a variety of foods, get plenty of fluids, and avoid foods that make
your symptoms worse. Some teens may need supplements, like calcium
or vitamin D. Someone who isn't growing well may need other
Dealing with the symptoms of Crohn's disease can be challenging. But many teens
find that they're able to feel well and have few symptoms for long periods of time.
Talk to your doctor about ways that you can feel better during the times you have
flares. If you feel sad or anxious about your symptoms, it may also help to talk to
a therapist or other mental health professional.
As you get older, you can take on more responsibility for managing
your health care. Getting treatment for Crohn's disease, managing your symptoms,
and keeping a positive attitude can help get you back on track.
The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation is a good resource for more information and