Crohn’s disease is one of a group of diseases known as inflammatory bowel diseases. It is a chronic condition of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract—your esophagus, stomach, and intestine. Over time Crohn’s can damage parts of the GI tract. Although it commonly affects the end of small intestine (ileum) and the beginning of the large intestine (colon), it may be found anywhere in the GI tract.
Your risk of getting Crohn’s disease may be tied to your family or to your environment. Learn about the risks you may have for Crohn’s disease by taking this assessment.
Note: A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease. Having a risk factor, or even several risk factors, doesn’t mean that you will get the disease. And some people who get the disease may not have had any known risk factors.
You told us that you are years old. Crohn’s disease happens most often in people who are ages 15 to 30. Although Crohn’s disease happens more often in this age group, it may happen at any age.
You told us you have a parent, sibling, or child (first-degree relative) with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s tends to run in families because the condition has a genetic component. People with brothers, sisters, parents, or children with Crohn’s disease have a higher risk of developing the disease than other people. Family history of the condition is the biggest risk factor for developing it. Children of parents with Crohn’s disease tend to develop Crohn’s at an earlier age than other people. Remember to share your family history with your health care provider.
You told us you have a grandparent, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, half-brother, or half-sister (second-degree relative) with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s tends to run in families because the condition has a genetic component. People with a second-degree relative with Crohn’s are at higher risk for developing the disease. Family history of the condition in second-degree relatives is the second biggest risk for developing it. Remember to share your family history with your health care provider.
You told us that you are of Eastern European Jewish (Ashkenazi) decent. People with this ethnic background are 4 to 5 times likely to develop Crohn’s disease. Remember to share your family history with your health care provider.
You don’t have a first- or second-degree relative with Crohn’s disease and you aren’t of eastern European Jewish ancestry. Many older studies showed that Crohn’s disease occurs more often in Caucasians than in other racial or ethnic groups. But more recent studies show that this may no longer be true. For example, in some areas of the U.S. the rate of Crohn’s in African Americans is nearing that of Caucasians. Crohn’s disease is less common in Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians, compared with Caucasians. These differences may be tied to environmental factors instead of to ethnic or racial backgrounds. Some of these environmental factors are discussed elsewhere in these results.
You told us that you are a smoker. Smoking increases your risk for Crohn’s disease. Smoking also makes Crohn’s symptoms worse. In particular, flare-ups are more common and more severe. Smoking also may make Crohn’s come back after surgery. Former smokers are also at risk for Crohn’s, but the risk is lower. Talk with your health care provider about programs that can help you quit.
You told us that you have been a smoker. Smoking increases your risk for Crohn’s disease. Smoking also makes Crohn’s symptoms worse. In particular, flare-ups are more common and more severe. Smoking also may make Crohn’s come back after surgery. Former smokers are also at risk for Crohn’s, but the risk is lower.
You told us you don’t smoke and haven’t smoked in the past. Smoking increases your risk for Crohn’s disease. By not smoking you have cut your risk of developing Crohn’s.
You told us you had an appendectomy to remove your infected appendix (appendicitis) less than 1 year ago. The connection between appendectomy and Crohn’s disease is not clear. Some studies show you may be at increased risk for Crohn’s disease after having your appendix removed. But some experts think this is related to Crohn’s disease being the problem, not appendicitis. Remember to tell your health care provider about any surgeries and procedures you’ve had.
The environment you live in may also play a role. Crohn’s disease seems to be more common in developed countries than in undeveloped countries. It is also more common in cities and industrial areas instead in rural areas. It’s also more common in northern countries than southern countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Researchers aren’t sure why this is so. It may be related in part to less sunlight and vitamin D exposure in northern countries. Researchers also think it may be related to a “Western” lifestyle. People who live a Western lifestyle eat more meat and are exposed to more pollution and more industrial chemicals. Being more physically active has been linked to a lower risk for Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease has no cure. But several treatments are available that can ease and control symptoms of the condition. The goal of treatment is to bring the disease into remission. This can allow a person with Crohn’s to lead a full life.
People with Crohn’s are at risk for early small bowel and colorectal cancer. If you have Crohn’s, talk with your health care provider about getting checked for these cancers.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional health care. Always talk with a healthcare provider for advice concerning your health. Only your health care provider can figure out if you have Crohn’s disease.
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
These are common symptoms of Crohn’s:
- Diarrhea that doesn’t go away. It may be bloody.
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Urgent need to move bowels
- Abdominal cramps and pain
People with inflammatory bowel disease may also have these general symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Fatigue or low energy
- Night sweats
- Joint aches
- In women, loss of normal menstrual cycle
This assessment is not intended to replace the evaluation of a healthcare professional.