Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is one of the chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. The condition is intermittent in nature, with episodes of abdominal pain and diarrhoea alternating with phases of relative well-being.

Overview

Crohn’s disease is one of the chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. The condition is intermittent in nature, with episodes of abdominal pain and diarrhoea alternating with phases of relative well-being. The cause is unknown. However, smoking is a risk factor and should be given up. At the first signs of an attack, patients should go to the doctor without delay.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

  • Intermittent in nature with phases of recovery
  • Abdominal pain
    • Colicky in nature
    • Pain is usually most intense in the right central or lower abdomen
  • Diarrhoea
    • Cramping when emptying the bowel
    • Undigested food in stool
    • Usually no blood or mucus in stool

Other symptoms

Typical complications and long-term consequences

  • Fistulas (i.e. inflamed tunnels)
    • Between different sections of the intestine
    • From the intestine to the vagina or bladder
    • Tunnels from the bowel to external organs or tissue (e.g. anal fistula)
  • Anal abscess, anal fissure, abscesses in the abdominal cavity
  • Intestinal stricture (i.e. narrowing) caused by adhesions
  • Higher risk of bowel cancer (but smaller risk than for ulcerative colitis)

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Unknown
  • Risk factors
    • Nicotine consumption
    • Genetic susceptibility is suspected (family history)

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Blood test and stool analysis
  • Ultrasound (sonography)
  • Endoscopic examination of bowel with removal of tissue sample (biopsy)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
Possible therapies
  • Medication
    • Suppression of inflammation
    • Antibiotics for additional infection
  • Operation
    • If all other measures fail
    • Required for intestinal obstruction, bowel perforation, peritonitis, uncontrolled bleeding
    • Crohn’s disease can't be cured

What can I do myself?

  • Diet
    • Healthy bowel diets are controversial (judged to be either essential or useless)
    • Patients are advised to find out for themselves what diet suits them best
    • Ask for specialist advice
  • Keep a close eye on the course of the disease
  • Stop smoking
  • Psychotherapeutic support, if necessary
  • Join a self-help group

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When to see a doctor?

  • Recurrent abdominal pain and diarrhoea without any discernible cause
  • Sudden onset of severe lower abdominal pain
  • Blood and mucus in stool
  • Diagnosed disease
    • Without delay when an attack starts
    • Constant medical supervision and long-term therapy are required

Further information

Selbsthilfe Schweiz (Self-Help Support Switzerland)
www.selbsthilfeschweiz.ch

Schweizerische Morbus Crohn/Colitis ulcerosa-Vereinigung (SMCCV) (Swiss Crohn’s & Colitis Association)
www.smccv.ch

Synonyms

Crohn's disease, Crohn’s, CD, ileitis, Crohn syndrome, granulomatous enteritis, regional enteritis, Leśniowski-Crohn disease

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Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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