Crohn's disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which involves chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn's-related inflammation usually affects the small and large intestines but may occur anywhere from the mouth to the end of the rectum (anus).
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There isn’t anything you or your parents did to get the disease, so you don’t have to feel guilty about it. It is not contagious, which means it can’t be “caught” by someone else.Pediatric GI doctor
The exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. The condition is linked to a problem with the body's immune system, which normally helps protect the body. In Crohn's disease, the immune system cannot tell the difference between good substances and foreign invaders. This means the body may overreact to normal bacteria in the intestines. The result is an overactive immune response that leads to chronic inflammation. This is called an autoimmune disorder.
A person's genes and environmental factors seem to play a role in the development of Crohn's disease. Inflammation related to Crohn's disease most often occurs at the end of the small intestine where it joins the large intestine, but it may occur in any area of the digestive tract. Healthy patches of tissue can exist between diseased areas. The ongoing inflammation causes the intestinal wall to thicken.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease depend on the part of the gastrointestinal tract affected. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can come and go with periods of flare-ups. The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease are:
Other symptoms may include:
If your child shows signs of Crohn’s disease, a pediatric gastroenterologist can perform the following exams and tests to make a diagnosis:
Treatments for Crohn’s disease include:
Visit the websites below to find support groups and services and learn more about Crohn’s disease.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) sponsors support groups and summer camps for children with Crohn's disease and provides extensive information about the condition on their website.
The North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition provides patient outreach and education for children and families living with Crohn’s disease.
ImproveCareNow is a network of care centers who are working to raise the standard of care of children with inflammatory bowel disease. The organization's official website provides useful resources for patients, families and care providers.
The pediatric gastroenterologists at Riley at IU Health actively participate in a large variety of local and national research studies. These studies are examining new treatments and new tests to help with diagnosis. We participate in studies about the quality of life in children with inflammatory bowel disease as well as perform sophisticated studies about protein and calorie metabolism in children with inflammatory bowel disease. We are the recipients of several grants to continue this research. Your child's pediatric specialist may ask about your interest in participating in these studies.