*Please note: This slide show represents a visual interpretation and
is not intended to provide, nor substitute as, medical and/or clinical
Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition, characterized
by inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which
is also known as the digestive tract.
Since Crohn’s disease is a chronic illness, it is
persistent and will be present throughout a patient’s
life. However, patients and physicians can work
together to manage the symptoms of this disease.
The GI tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach,
small intestine, large intestine and anal region.
Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract, but
the most common location is the last part of the small
intestine, which is called the ileum, and the first portion
of the colon, which is also referred to as the large
Current thinking is that Crohn’s disease is a genetic
disease caused by abnormal regulation of the immune
system. The GI tract is frequently confronted with
bacteria from our diet and environment.
Many factors can contribute to a person’s risk of
having Crohn’s disease, but most can be thought of in
three categories: genetic predisposition, environmental
factors, and a dysregulated immune response in the GI
tract, which causes inflammation
Environmental factors that may contribute to Crohn’s
disease, include infections, smoking, and taking
antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs known as
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs).
One way that the body can protect against potential
bacterial threats is with inflammation. We are familiar
with how inflammation looks on the outside of the
body, for example when you have a scrape or a cut.
That scrape or cut becomes red, and inflamed as a
result of the immune system trying to get rid of any
bacteria and viruses that are in the wound
After a few days when the immune system has
finished its job, it “turns off”, so the redness and
In Crohn’s disease, inflammation (ulcers) appear
within the GI tract, and the immune system works to
combat the bacteria and viruses in the same way as
with a cut on the surface of the skin.
However, the difference is that the immune system is
not able to turn itself off after it has gotten rid of the
bacteria or virus, so the ulcers remain until they are
treated with medicine or surgery.
This chronic inflammation is what causes the
symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease vary depending on
where the disease is located and its severity. This
means that every patient with Crohn’s disease
experiences the disease differently.
Most patients with Crohn’s disease have abdominal
pain and diarrhea.
Other symptoms related to the GI tract can include
abdominal tenderness, loss of appetite, weight loss,
fever, fatigue, rectal bleeding, anal skin tags and
In children, Crohn’s disease may result in stunted
growth and a failure to thrive, even if GI symptoms are
In addition to symptoms involving the GI tract, Crohn’s
disease can affect other parts of the body. Symptoms
outside of the GI tract can include joint pain, liver
inflammation, osteoporosis, skin problems, eye
problems, mouth ulcers, and anemia.
Patients with Crohn’s disease should expect to lead
normal lives in consultation with their health care
providers. The goal of the healthcare provider is to
help people manage Crohn’s disease, rather than
having the disease manage them.
Slide Show - What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This slide set describes what happens to the immune system to cause Crohn’s disease, its symptoms (such as abdominal pain and diarrhea), and factors that contribute to its development (including genetics and environmental factors).
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