Crohn’s disease is best described as an inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract causing pain and diarrhea. Without treatment, it can develop into blockages, fistulas (small tunnels through tissue) and scar tissue.
Crohn’s disease typically affects the end of the small bowel and the beginning of the colon. However, it may affect any part of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus and can affect the superficial and deep layers of the intestinal wall. It is most commonly diagnosed in people ages 20 to 30, and those with a family history of inflammatory bowel disease have a 20% higher chance of developing it.
Equal numbers of men and women appear to develop the disease and having a first degree relative with the disease may make it ten to fifteen times more likely to develop it, even though it is not considered an “inherited” disease in the traditional sense.
Smokers with Crohn’s disease tend to develop more severe issues with the disease, putting them at increased risk for requiring surgery.