Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the intestines. It may occur anywhere along the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. There is no known cause. Crohn’s is an autoimmune disorder, which means the immune system mistakenly destroys the body’s own healthy tissue.
Crohn’s disease is usually discovered in adolescents and young adults but can occur from early childhood to older age. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, Crohn’s may affect more than 700,000 Americans. Of those affected, about 10 percent suffer from the most severe form for which no treatment is completely effective.
The symptoms for Crohn’s disease occur because the gastrointestinal tract is inflamed. They include abdominal cramping, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, pain when passing stool, persistent watery diarrhea, and weight loss. Other symptoms may include constipation, eye inflammation, fistulas around the rectal area, joint pain and swelling, mouth ulcers, rectal bleeding, bloody stools, skin lumps or sores, and swollen gums.
To diagnose Crohn’s disease, your doctor will perform a physical examination and look for abdominal tenderness, skin rash, swollen joints, or mouth ulcers. You may also have diagnostic tests or scans, such as an upper gastrointestinal series of X-rays, colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), endoscopy, or enteroscopy. Stool cultures may be used to determine if there’s another reason for your symptoms.