Crohn's disease

What causes Crohn's disease?

The exact cause of Crohn's disease is not known, but it appears to be a multifactorial condition. This means that both genetic and environmental factors likely interact to predispose an individual to being affected. Studies suggest that Crohn's disease may result from a combination of certain genetic variations, changes in the immune system, and the presence of bacteria in the digestive tract.

Recent studies have found that variations in specific genes, including the ATG16L1, IL23R, IRGM, and NOD2 genes, influence the risk of developing Crohn's disease. These genes provide instructions for making proteins that are involved in immune system function. Variations in any of these genes may disrupt the ability of intestinal cells to respond to bacteria, leading to chronic inflammation and thus the signs and symptoms of the condition. There may also be genetic variations in regions of chromosome 5 and chromosome 10 that contribute to an increased risk to develop Crohn's disease.

Last updated on 05-01-20

How is Crohn's disease diagnosed?

A variety of tests are used to diagnose and monitor Crohn’s disease. A combination of tests is often needed because some symptoms of the condition are similar to other intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and to another type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) called ulcerative colitis. Tests used to narrow down the diagnosis may include blood tests, tissue tests, ultrasound, x-rays, CT scan, and/or endoscopy. A proper diagnosis also involves identifying the extent and severity of disease as well as any related complications.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Is prenatal testing available for Crohn's disease?

Because Crohn's disease is caused by many factors, no test can determine if an individual will definitely develop this condition. Genetic testing is available to determine if there is a disease-causing change (mutation) in the NOD2 gene, one of the genes that has been shown to be associated with an increased chance of developing Crohn's disease. Genetic testing may be available during pregnancy (prenatal diagnosis) to determine if a fetus has inherited a familial mutation in the NOD2 gene when a mutation has been identified in a relative. The finding of a mutation in the NOD2 gene does not diagnose Crohn's disease; it only indicates that there is an increased chance of developing this condition at some point in the future.

GeneTests is a web site that lists the names of laboratories that are performing genetic testing for Crohn's disease; currently, there is only one laboratory listed as offering prenatal diagnosis for this condition in the United States. To view the contact information for the clinical laboratories conducting testing, click the following link: Crohn's disease. [ Please note: Most of the laboratories listed through GeneTests do not accept direct contact from patients and their families; therefore, if you are interested in learning more, you will need to work with a health care provider or a genetics professional. ]

Last updated on 05-01-20

Is Crohn's disease inherited?

Crohn's disease, like most other autoimmune diseases, is thought to be a multifactorial condition. This means it is likely associated with the effects of multiple genes, in combination with lifestyle and environmental factors. Once an autoimmune disease is present in a family, other relatives may be at risk to develop the same autoimmune disease, or a different autoimmune disease. However, if an autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's disease occurs in a family, it does not necessarily mean that relatives will develop an autoimmune disease. Having an affected family member means that there may be a genetic predisposition in the family that could increase an individual's chance of developing an autoimmune disease. Thus, having an affected family member is considered a risk factor for Crohn's disease.

Last updated on 05-01-20

What genes are currently known to be associated with Crohn's disease?

More than 30 distinct genes, or presumed locations of genes (loci), have been suggested to be related to CD, including those related to susceptibility, age of onset, disease location, diagnosis, and prognosis. So far, the strongest associations with CD have been found with the NOD2 (also called CARD15 ), IL23R and ATG16L1 genes.

The search for specific susceptibility genes (genes in which variations may increase a person's risk) has been difficult due to complex genetics, including factors such as the lack of simple inheritance patterns and involvement of several genes. Studies have already led to the identification of a number of susceptibility genes: NOD2, DLG5, OCTN1 (also called SLC22A4 ), OCTN2 __ ( SLC22A5 ), NOD1, IL23R, PTGER4, ATG16L1 and IRGM. The NOD2 gene is currently the most replicated and understood.

With respect to age of CD onset and more specifically to childhood or early- onset Crohn’s disease, the following genes/loci have been implicated: TNFRSF6B, CXCL9, IL23R, NOD2 , ATG16L1 rs2241880, CNR1, IL-10 , and MDR1 (also called ABCB1 ).

In terms of genes related to CD location, studies have suggested that upper GI Crohn’s disease has been related to NOD2 and MIF variants. Ileal CD has been related to the IL-10, CRP , NOD2,ZNF365 _and STAT3 genes. Genes/loci associated with ileocolonic CD are 3p21, _ATG16L1 and TCF-4 ( TCF7L2 ).

Variations in a number of genes have also been found to be associated with other aspects of CD, such as disease behavior, risk for cancer, and presence of extraintestinal manifestations. To view a free, full-text journal article published in 2012 about the role of genetics in CD, click here. To view only a table from this article listing the genes that appear to be associated with Crohn's disease, click here.

Because the information provided here is complex, individuals seeking to better understand this information may benefit from meeting with a genetics professional or other qualified health care provider.

Last updated on 05-01-20

What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the general name for conditions that cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Common signs and symptoms include abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, and weight loss. Other general symptoms include feeling tired, nausea and loss of appetite, fever, and anemia. Complications of Crohn's disease may include intestinal blockage, fistulas, anal fissures, ulcers, malnutrition, and inflammation in other areas of the body. Crohn's disease can occur in people of all age groups but is most often diagnosed in young adults. The exact cause is unknown, but is thought to be due from a combination of certain genetic variations, changes in the immune system, and the presence of bacteria in the digestive tract. Many of the major genes related to Crohn disease, including NOD2, ATG16L1, IL23R, and IRGM, are involved in immune system function. The disease is not inherited but it appears to run in some families because in about 15% of the cases the disease is present in more than one relative.

Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and reducing inflammation, and may include diet and medication, but some people require surgery. Surgery often involves removal of the diseased segment of bowel (resection), the two ends of healthy bowel are then joined together (anastomosis). In about 30% of people who have surgery for Crohn’s disease symptoms may come back within three years and up to 60% will have recurrence within ten years.

Last updated on 05-01-20

How many people in the United States have Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease may affect as many as 700,000 people in the U.S. Men and women are affected in equal numbers. While the condition can occur at any age, it is more common among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35.

Last updated on 05-01-20

How might Crohn's disease be treated?

For information on the treatment of Crohn's disease, visit the following links:

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK): diseases/crohns- disease/Pages/treatment.aspx

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America: disease/crohns-treatment-options.html

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for Crohn's disease from the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America:

Last updated on 05-01-20

Where To Start

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America

Just Like Me! , a Web site for kids and teens with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease sponsored by the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).

Last updated on 04-27-20

Name: Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America 733 Third Avenue, Suite 510
New York, NY, 10017, United States
Toll Free: 1–800–932–2423 Email: Url: Speak with a specialist by telephone at 888-MY-GUT-PAIN (888-694-8872)

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The RareGuru disease database is regularly updated using data generously provided by GARD, the United States Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center.

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