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What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease is similar to Ulcerative Colitis (UC) in that they are both lifelong chronic inflammatory bowl diseases (IBD). 

Like UC, the cause of Crohn’s disease remains unknown. Some hypothesize that it develops as a result of an abnormal response to the intestines’ normal bacteria in the gut microbiome. The body’s immune system signals these bacteria as “foreign”, which triggers an inflammatory response, causing part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to become swollen, potentially causing painful ulcers in the intestinal lining. 

Crohn’s disease, named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn who first described it in 1932, typically develops in the last part of the small intestine and the first part of the large intestine. However, it can develop anywhere along the digestive tract, from the mouth to anus.

Crohn’s impacts people of all ages, however, peak onset is 15 to 35 years. Females are also more likely to get the disease.

Inflammation from Crohn’s can strike anywhere in the GI tract. Patches of inflammation are scattered between healthy portions of the gut and can penetrate the intestinal layers from the inner to outer lining. Crohn’s can also affect the network of tissue that holds the small bowel to the abdomen and contains the main intestinal blood vessels and lymph glands.

Other kinds of bacteria and viruses may also play a role in causing the disease, which can run in families and chances of getting it are higher if a close family member has it. People of Eastern European (Jewish) and South Asian background may have a higher chance of getting Crohn’s disease. Smoking also puts people at a higher risk of developing the disease. 

There are 270,000 Canadians living with some form of IBD and that total is expected to rise to 400,000 accounting for approximately one per cent of the population. That is a 50 per cent increase since 2018. In British Columbia there are 33,165 people that have IBD.

Crohn’s disease can be controlled with medication and reduce the chance of a relapse. In severe cases, surgery of the small or large intestine may be required to properly manage the disease. 

For more information regarding available treatments and support, contact the Medical Arts Health Research Group at or visit our website at