Crohn's disease causes inflammation in the small intestine. Crohn's disease
usually occurs in the lower part of the small intestine, called the ileum, but
it can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. The
inflammation extends deep into the lining of the affected organ. The
inflammation can cause pain and can make the intestines empty frequently,
resulting in diarrhea.
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the general name for
diseases that cause inflammation in the intestines. Crohn's disease can be
difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other intestinal
disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and to another type of IBD called
ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in the
top layer of the lining of the large intestine.
My life with Crohn's has not been easy.
I remember lying in my hospital bed watching a commercial for iced tea. Everyone was running around in the sunshine listening to happy, uplifting music. Never before had I been so jealous of people doing something so simple. I was 16 and it was 2006, five years after I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. I had an intestinal blockage and was hospitalized for five days while hooked up to a nasogastric (NG) tube that sucked out bile that was blocking my small...
Crohn's disease affects men and women equally and seems to run in some
families. About 20 percent of people with Crohn's disease have a blood relative
with some form of IBD, most often a brother or sister and sometimes a parent or
Crohn's disease may also be called ileitis or enteritis.
What Causes Crohn's Disease?
Theories about what causes Crohn's disease abound, but none has been proven.
The most popular theory is that the body's immune system reacts to a virus or a
bacterium by causing ongoing inflammation in the intestine.
People with Crohn's disease tend to have abnormalities of the immune system,
but doctors do not know whether these abnormalities are a cause or result of
the disease. Crohn's disease is not caused by emotional distress.
How Is Crohn's Disease Diagnosed?
A thorough physical exam and a series of tests may be required to diagnose
Blood tests may be done to check for anemia, which could indicate bleeding
in the intestines. Blood tests may also uncover a high white blood cell count,
which is a sign of inflammation somewhere in the body. By testing a stool
sample, the doctor can tell if there is bleeding or infection in the
The doctor may do an upper gastrointestinal (GI) series to look at the small
intestine. For this test, the patient drinks barium, a chalky solution that
coats the lining of the small intestine, before x-rays are taken. The barium
shows up white on x-ray film, revealing inflammation or other abnormalities in
The doctor may also do a colonoscopy. For this test, the doctor inserts an
endoscope -- a long, flexible, lighted tube linked to a computer and TV monitor
-- into the anus to see the inside of the large intestine. The doctor will be
able to see any inflammation or bleeding. During the exam, the doctor may do a
biopsy, which involves taking a sample of tissue from the lining of the
intestine to view with a microscope.
If these tests show Crohn's disease, more x-rays of both the upper and lower
digestive tract may be necessary to see how much is affected by the