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Crohn's Disease

Putting It All Together: Crohn’s Disease

Here is a summary of the important facts and information related to Crohn’s disease.

  • Crohn’s disease is a chronic, inflammatory condition that can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. The majority of cases of Crohn’s disease involve the terminal ileum, the place in the body where the small intestine meets the large intestine.
  • Crohn’s disease is characterized by periods of active inflammation, called flare-ups, and periods of reduced or absent symptoms, called remission.
  • Crohn’s disease has a genetic component. People from families in which another member has Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory condition of the colon, are statistically more likely to be affected.
  • Together, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are known as inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Common symptoms of Crohn’s disease include chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. Weight loss and nutritional deficiencies may also occur.
  • To accurately diagnose Crohn’s disease, a physician will order a number of laboratory tests and at least one imaging examination: sigmoidoscopycolonoscopy, or barium enema.
  • Flare-ups are typically treated with steroids, immunosuppressive drugs, 5-ASA compounds, anti-TNF agents, or antibiotics, or a combination thereof. In addition, a pharmaceutical regimen is often followed to maintain remission once it is achieved.
  • The presence of active Crohn’s disease may affect fertility in both men and women, due to the effects of fever, nutritional deficiency, and infection.
  • Some drugs used to treat the disease may affect fertility and/or may cause birth defects, while others are considered to be safe. Appropriate treatment during efforts to conceive and pregnancy should be discussed with an individual’s health care providers.
  • People with Crohn’s disease have a statistically slightly higher risk of developing colon cancer, so they should begin regular screening eight to twelve years after the initial diagnosis, depending on their particular disease history.
  • Researchers are actively pursuing new therapies and improving traditional treatments as their understanding of Crohn’s disease improves.
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