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JAMA Patient Page
October 22/29, 2014

Crohn Disease

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2014 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA. 2014;312(16):1708. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.7962

People with Crohn disease have inflamed tissues in their digestive tract.

Crohn disease is one type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is a chronic (long-lasting) condition. Crohn disease can develop at any age, but it most commonly develops between ages 20 and 30 years.

What Are the Symptoms of Crohn Disease?

The symptoms of Crohn disease can be different in different people. They might come on slowly. Or, they might come on suddenly and severely, without warning. You might have Crohn disease if you

  • Have loose, watery stools

  • Have belly pains and cramps

  • Have bloody stools

  • Feel sick to your stomach or vomit

  • Have less appetite

  • Are losing weight

People with Crohn disease sometimes also have

  • Fever

  • A tired feeling

  • Painful, inflamed joints

  • Inflamed eyes

  • Mouth sores

  • Rashes or ulcers

  • Sores around the anus

For most patients, symptoms come and go. The pattern is usually not predictable. The return of symptoms is called a flare. Most patients will have flares throughout their lives and so most will need lifelong treatment.

What Causes Crohn Disease?

The cause of Crohn disease is not known. There are a number of possible causes. Your doctor can explain these causes.

How Is Crohn Disease Treated?

Treatment has several goals. It can reduce the number of flares. It can help you feel normal. And it can keep you feeling normal longer. Some new medicines might help prevent complications of Crohn disease.

Like all medicines, those used to treat Crohn disease have risks. Your doctor can discuss the options. Your doctor can also choose a medicine that is right for you.

Sometimes medicine doesn’t help. If that happens, your doctor might suggest surgery. During surgery, the inflamed part of the digestive tract is removed. Some patients need surgery more than once. Surgery will not cure Crohn disease, but it can help you feel better so you can return to your normal activities.

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The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.
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Article Information

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The author has completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported.

Sources: Crohn’s & Colitis Foundations of America; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

Topic: Digestive System