What is Crohn's Disease?

Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can affect different parts of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. Crohn’s disease does not have to include the entire gastrointestinal tract (and rarely does). It can “skip” areas (normal areas between two inflamed areas).

What Are Common Types of Crohn's Disease in Children?

  • Ileitis – Ileitis is when there is Crohn’s disease just in the end of the small intestine.
  • Colitis – Colitis is when there is inflammation in just the large intestine. It is the medical word for inflammation in the colon and can either describe Crohn’s colitis (Crohn’s disease of the colon) or ulcerative colitis (another form of IBD).
  • Ileocolitis – Ileocolitis is when there is Crohn’s disease in parts of both the large intestine (colon) and small intestine.

Crohn’s disease can also affect the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract such as the stomach or the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach).

What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?

Symptoms of active Crohn’s disease include:

  • The symptoms of Crohn’s disease vary based on the location and extent of the inflammation in the GI tract. Patients with relatively minor inflammation will experience milder symptoms, while patients with extensive inflammation will have more severe symptoms. Some patients will have flare-ups more frequently than others, who may go into remission for longer periods of time.
  • Crohn’s disease can also affect the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract such as the stomach or the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach).
  • Fevers
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Blood in stools
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes

What Are the Complications of Crohn's Disease?

Some children with Crohn’s disease have scarring or narrowing in their intestines. This is called a stricture. Strictures can cause abdominal pain and vomiting, and can lead to a blockage in the bowel. Some narrowed areas are caused by inflammation that gets better with medicine. Others can have scar tissue (fibrosis) that may need to be inflated with a balloon during a colonoscopy or, in some children, surgery.

Another possible complication seen in Crohn’s disease is a fistula. A fistula is a connection from one part of the intestine to another part of the body (like another part of intestine, bladder or skin). Fistulae may respond to anti-inflammatory medicines, but some may require surgery.

Sometimes a fistula can lead to a pocket of infection (called an abscess). Abscesses require antibiotics. They may also need to be drained by a radiologist with a tube or by surgery.

Rev. 11/2013

This document is intended to provide health related information so that you may be better informed. It is not a substitute for a doctor's medical advice and should not be relied upon for treatment for specific medical conditions.