Crohn's disease is a chronic and serious inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that affects more than 500,000 Americans. People with Crohn's may experience a number of symptoms, including diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, fever, rectal bleeding, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Many people diagnosed with Crohn's are able to do the things they like to do.
Crohn's is categorized, along with ulcerative colitis (UC), as an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a term used to describe these inflammatory diseases affecting the GI tract.
While Crohn's and UC are both classified as IBDs and have similar symptoms, a few distinctions exist between the two:
- Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive system, but usually occurs in the small bowel. In contrast, UC only affects the large bowel and rectum.
- In Crohn’s, the bowel may contain both healthy sections and diseased sections, while UC affects the colon’s innermost lining and is continuous throughout.
- The inflammation and ulcers caused by Crohn’s can occur outside the walls of the intestine. They break through the intestinal wall and form an abscess or a fistula outside of it. In UC, the inflammation and ulcers occur within the colon.
In spite of these differences, doctors are challenged with making an accurate diagnosis in approximately 10% of cases.
The cause of Crohn's is unknown. However, research suggests that Crohn's may result from an interaction among genetics, the immune system, and something in the environment.
Crohn's disease most often appears when people are between the ages of 15 and 35, although children (ages 6-17) and the elderly may also be affected. REMICADE is approved for use in adults and children.