Skip to Content

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's disease is a severe, chronic inflammatory bowel disease. It causes inflammation, ulcers, and bleeding in the digestive tract.

It often affects the end portion of the small intestine, called the ileum. However, Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus.

The cause of Crohn's disease is not known, but, like other inflammatory bowel diseases, it seems to run in some families.

Some research links Crohn’s disease to an overactive and inappropriate immune response to the bacteria that normally reside in the intestine, causing damage to the intestines.

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Common symptoms of Crohn's disease include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Mouth sores
  • Sores, abscesses in the anal area

Diagnosing Crohn’s Disease

To diagnose Crohn's disease, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool examination
  • Barium x-rays (upper gastrointestinal series, small bowel follow-through, or barium enemas) to identify inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to identify abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract or internal organs
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy to examine the rectum and the lower colon
  • Colonoscopy to examine the lining of the colon and the small intestine
  • Upper endoscopy/enteroscopy to examine the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine
  • Biopsy to test a small (2-4 mm) sample of the gastrointestinal lining

Treating Crohn’s Disease

The following treatment options can help control or prevent the severity of Crohn’s disease symptoms.

Medicines for Treating Crohn’s Disease

Many types of medicines are available to treat Crohn's disease, such as:

  • Aminosalicylate medicines
  • Antibiotics/probiotics
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immunomodulators
  • TNF-inhibitors
  • Other biologic treatments

Dietary Changes

Your doctor may recommend that you avoid foods that provoke symptoms.

These foods are different for each person, but may include:

  • Dairy foods (due to lactose intolerance)
  • Highly seasoned foods
  • High-fiber foods


Very severe Crohn's disease may not improve with medicines and can cause complications, such as:

  • A stricture
  • An obstruction
  • Fistulas, which are abnormal connections between the intestine and other organs or tissues, such as the bladder, vagina, or skin

In these cases, surgery may be an option. Your surgeon will remove the diseased section of your intestine and join the two remaining healthier ends together.

Leading-edge Therapy

Groundbreaking research from the UPMC Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center has found that treating people with medicine following bowel resection can keep Crohn’s disease from reoccurring.