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Crohn's disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system.
Inflammation can affect any part of the digestive system, from the mouth to the back passage, but most commonly occurs in the last section of the small intestine (ileum) or the large intestine (colon).
Common symptoms can include:
People with Crohn's disease sometimes go for long periods without symptoms or with very mild symptoms. This is known as remission. Remission can be followed by periods where symptoms flare up and become particularly troublesome.
The exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. However, research suggests a combination of factors may be responsible. These include:
Read more about the possible causes of Crohn's disease.
There's currently no cure for Crohn's disease, so the aim of treatment is to stop the inflammatory process, relieve symptoms (induce and maintain remission) and avoid surgery wherever possible.
The first treatment offered to reduce symptoms is usually steroid medication (corticosteroids). If this doesn't help, medication to suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants) and medication to reduce inflammation may be used.
In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove the inflamed section of intestine.
Once your symptoms are under control (in remission), further medication may be needed to help maintain this.
Crohn's disease is a relatively uncommon condition. There are currently at least 115,000 people living with the condition in the UK.
Crohn's disease can affect people of all ages, including children. However, most cases first develop between the ages of 16 and 30.
A large number of cases also develop between the ages of 60 and 80.
It affects slightly more women than men, but in children more boys are affected than girls.
The condition is more common in white people than in black or Asian people. It's most prevalent among Jewish people of European descent.
Read more about treating Crohn's disease.
Over time, inflammation can damage sections of the digestive system, resulting in complications such as narrowing of the intestine (stricture), or a channel developing between the end of the bowel and the skin near the anus or vagina (fistula). These problems usually require surgical treatment.
Read more about the possible complications of Crohn's disease.
If you have Crohn's disease, your clinical team will pass information about you on to the National Congenital Anomaly and Rare Diseases Registration Service (NCARDRS).
This helps scientists look for better ways to prevent and treat this condition. You can opt out of the register at any time.