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What Is Crohn’s Disease?

Outline of man showing gastrointestinal system. Crohn’s disease causes swelling, inflammation, and irritation. This leads to ulceration of the digestive tract. It is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and often affects the small intestine and the colon. All layers of the lining of the digestive tract may be affected. While this disease has no cure, the symptoms can be treated. Help manage your symptoms by following your healthcare provider’s advice and avoiding foods that cause irritation.

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease

  • Belly pain and cramping

  • Urgent need to move bowels or sensation of incomplete evacuation

  • Constipation

  • High fever and chills

  • Loss of appetite; possible weight loss

  • Bloody or persistent diarrhea

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Joint pain

  • Skin rashes and ulceration

  • Eye inflammation

Your treatment choices

Your healthcare provider will discuss your treatment choices with you. They may include medicines, lifestyle changes, surgery, or a combination of these. Treatment helps you stay as active as you want to be. Keep in mind that Crohn’s is considered chronic. That means it usually can’t be cured. But treatment may ease symptoms. And even though you have a chronic illness, you can still live a full life.


Certain medicines can help your symptoms. These may include:

  • Medicines to control your body's immune system, such as 6-mercaptopurine or azathioprine

  • Corticosteroids (for short-term, but not maintenance treatment) to help reduce inflammation

  • Antibiotics to fight bacteria, if there are infectious complications

  • Biologics (anti-TNF)

Lifestyle changes

Cross section of colon showing Crohn's disease.
Crohn’s disease can affect all the layers of the digestive tract.
This includes:

  • Certain foods can worsen symptoms. You may need to change what you eat. Avoid any food that makes your symptoms worse. These foods vary from person to person. But high-fiber foods (such as fresh vegetables) and high-fat foods (such as dairy products and red meat) cause symptoms in many people. Keep track of foods that cause you problems.

  • To a lesser degree, stress may possibly worsen symptoms. Reducing stress may help. Techniques like relaxation exercises, medicine, and deep breathing can help you control stress. Your healthcare provider may be able to tell you more about these.

If surgery is needed

Surgery may help control Crohn's, relieving digestive tract symptoms. Surgery can remove a severely affected part of the digestive tract. If this is a choice for you, your healthcare provider can give you more information. Keep in mind that surgery is not a cure for Crohn's. You will need to continue to closely follow up with your healthcare provider after surgery for more treatment and testing recommendations 

Online Medical Reviewer: Adler, Liora C., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.
Last Review Date: 7/1/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.