Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The cause
is unknown. In Crohn’s disease, the immune system is inappropriately
triggered to attack the digestive tract, causing chronic inflammation.
The inflammation causes symptoms and can lead to permanent damage and
Inflammation in Crohn’s disease can involve any area of the digestive
tract, from the mouth to the anus. The most common areas involved are
the end of the small intestine (ileum) and the large intestine (colon).
Inflammation can involve all intestinal layers and may extend through
the wall of the intestine. There may be areas of normal intestine
between areas of diseased tissue.
Symptoms vary depending on which parts of the digestive tract are
involved and the severity of inflammation. Symptoms may subside for a
while (remission) and then return (flare). The most common symptoms are
diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, fever, and weight loss. Sores
(ulcers) may develop in the mouth, around the anus, or within the
Chronic inflammation in Crohn’s disease can lead to scar tissue
formation in affected segments of the digestive tract and possible
blockages. Deep ulcers in the intestine may form channels through the
wall of the intestine (fistulas), which may become infected (abscesses).
Malnutrition is another potential complication of Crohn’s disease.
Proper diagnosis of Crohn’s disease is important for optimal treatment.
If IBD is suspected based on symptoms, our gastroenterologists will
perform tests to confirm the presence of inflammation in the digestive
tract and to determine whether the inflammation is due to Crohn’s
disease, ulcerative colitis, or another cause. Diagnostic tests may
The first goal of treatment is to put Crohn’s disease into remission.
Remission means that inflammation is controlled and there are no
symptoms or signs of inflammation. Once remission is achieved, the goal
is to prevent further symptoms and complications (maintain remission).
Drug therapy. Although there is no cure for Crohn’s
disease, advances in medical therapy are making it possible to achieve
and maintain remission. Medical treatment is tailored to each person’s
needs and varies depending on the extent and severity of disease,
response to medications, and side effect considerations. Lankenau
gastroenterologists offer expertise in individualized treatment for
Crohn’s disease using the following medical therapies:
Mesalamine-containing drugs (5-ASA agents)
Anti-inflammatory drugs, including corticosteroids
Biologic response modifiers (“biologics”)
Surgery. Many people with Crohn’s disease will need or
benefit from surgery. Surgery may be recommended if symptoms are not
well controlled with medications. Other reasons are to remove
precancerous or cancerous tissue or to treat complications. The most
common procedures are:
Removal of a diseased segment of the colon (resection), with the
two ends of healthy intestine typically joined together
Surgical opening of blockages (stricturoplasty)
Drainage of abscesses
Surgical treatment of fistulas and fissures
Lankenau surgeons have extensive expertise in the surgical management of
Crohn’s disease and offer both traditional and minimally invasive
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.