Crohn’s disease is a chronic illness that is part of a group of disorders classified under inflammatory bowel disease, which leads to severe digestive problems and abdominal pain. It can cause inflammation in different parts of the digestive system for different people.
The cause of Crohn’s disease is not known but could be an abnormal response by the immune system. Family history is a risk factor, and Crohn’s disease is associated with 100 different genes. People who are related to patients with inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to develop Crohn’s disease. In addition, people of Eastern European and Ashkenazi Jewish descent are at a higher risk. People who smoke, live in northern climates or eat a diet high in fat are also at a higher risk.
Crohn’s disease usually occurs between ages 15 and 30 years, but it can develop at any age. People who develop complications may have arthritis, kidney stones, liver disease, gallstones, skin ulcers or mouth inflammation.
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation in several layers of bowel tissue, which can interfere with daily activities and lead to life-threatening symptoms. It can form scar tissue, block bowel passages, create ulcers, cause poor absorption of nutrients and develop fistulas or abnormal passages to other parts of the bowel or other organs.