is an ongoing (chronic) condition that may flare up throughout your life. It affects different people in different ways. Some people
may have only mild symptoms. Others may have severe symptoms or
complications that, in rare cases, may be life-threatening.
Although there are many theories about what causes Crohn's disease, none of them have been proven. So exactly what causes it is unknown. There is a benefit, though, in understanding the possible causes of Crohn's disease and how they interact with one another. Doing so can help one better understand the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of Crohn's disease.
Scientists believe that Crohn's disease is caused by a combination of these factors:
Immune system problems
Crohn's disease may be defined by the part of the
digestive tract involved, such as the rectum and anus (perianal disease) or the
area where the small intestine joins the large intestine (ileocecal disease).
Some people may have features of both Crohn's disease and
ulcerative colitis, the other major type of
inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
In long-term Crohn's disease,
scar tissue may replace some of the inflamed or ulcerated intestines. This scar tissue can form
blockages (bowel obstructions) or narrowed areas (strictures) that can prevent
stool from passing through the intestines. Blockages in the intestines also can
be caused by inflammation and swelling, which may improve with medicines.
Sometimes blockages can only be treated with surgery.
break through the wall of the intestines, abnormal connections or openings
(fistulas) may form. Fistulas can form between two parts of the
intestines, between the intestines and other organs (such as the bladder or
vagina), or between the intestines and the skin. In rare cases, this can lead
to infection of the abdominal wall.
Crohn's disease of the colon
and rectum that has been present for 8 years or longer increases the
risk of cancer. With regular screening, some cancers can be
found early and treated successfully.
Most women who have
Crohn's disease can have a normal pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. The best idea is to wait until the disease is in remission before becoming pregnant. Women who become pregnant when their disease is under control are more likely to avoid flare-ups during pregnancy.
Some medicines used to treat the disease
can be used during pregnancy. It's a good idea to talk with your doctor about which medicines are okay. But sometimes severe Crohn's disease can
harm your baby more than medicines to keep it under control.