Crohn's disease causes inflammation of the digestive system. It is one of a group of diseases called inflammatory bowel disease. Crohn's can affect any area from the mouth to the anus. It often affects the lower part of the small intestine called the ileum.
Since Crohn's disease can affect any part of the intestine, symptoms may vary greatly from patient to patient. Common symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, weight loss, and bloating. Not all patients experience all of these symptoms, and some may experience none of them. People with Crohn's disease can experience periods of severe symptoms followed by periods of remission that can last for weeks or years.
Any age group may be affected, but the majority of patients are young adults between 16 and 40 years old. Crohn's disease occurs most commonly in people living in northern climates. It affects men and women equally and appears to be common in some families. About 20 percent of people with Crohn's disease have a relative, most often a brother or sister, and sometimes a parent or child, with some form of inflammatory bowel disease.
Crohn's disease and a similar condition called ulcerative colitis (sores on the large intestine) are often grouped together as inflammatory bowel disease. The two diseases afflict an estimated two million individuals in the U.S.
There is no "cure" for Crohn's disease, but medical therapy with one or more drugs provides a means to treat early Crohn's disease and relieve its symptoms. The most common drugs prescribed are corticosteroids.