Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. In contrast to ulcerative colitis, which only affects the colon, Crohn's disease can occur in the entire digestive tract. Crohn's disease is most frequently located in the last part of the small intestine. The disease is usually episodic with diarrhoea, stomach pain and fever.
It is unclear why Crohn's disease occurs. It is presumed that there is an interplay of different factors such as genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Smoking, for example, is known to be a risk factor. Crohn's disease can occur in different parts of the digestive tract at the same time. In contrast to ulcerative colitis, where the inflammation is restricted to the intestinal mucosa, Crohn's disease affects the entire intestinal wall. The inflammation can thus also break through the abdominal wall and form abscesses or fistula.
Crohn’s disease is typically episodic with slimy, bloody diarrhoea, stomach pain and fever. Blood in the stool should always be checked by a doctor. Sometimes there is also inflammation in the skin, the joints or the eyes. Food absorption is often impaired by inflammation of the small intestine. A lack of iron and vitamins in combination with bloody diarrhoea can cause anaemia with fatigue and shortness of breath.
Crohn's disease is diagnosed on the basis of the patient’s medical history, the symptoms and with different examinations. This includes blood tests, an ultrasound examination of the intestine and a colonoscopy.
Different medications which have an anti-inflammatory effect and influence the immune system are used to treat Crohn's disease. Surgical procedures are required during bowel ruptures, abscesses or fistula formation. Find out more in the small intestine surgery and colon surgery sections.
Those affected must undergo regular check-ups as there is an increased risk of bowel cancer associated with Crohn's disease.