By ACCORDANT MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT
The cause of Crohn's disease or Crohn's is not yet known. Theories include the immune system, environmental factors, and heredity as causes. It is quite possible that Crohn's may be caused by a combination of the three. The current widely accepted idea is that Crohn's disease is caused by an abnormal reaction of the immune system in response to bacteria that are normally present in the bowel in people with a genetic risk.
The immune system is believed to be a key factor in the development of Crohn's. One theory is that the immune system mistakes helpful bacteria that normally live in the intestine, for harmful bacteria. This case of mistaken identity may be triggered by something in the environment. The immune system then causes inflammation as part of an effort to remove what it believes is "harmful" bacteria. Then, once the immune system is turned to "on," it doesn't know how to turn itself back to "off." Another theory is that there are "triggers" in the environment that may be the direct cause of the inflammation.
Since Crohn's tends to run in families, genes that you get from your relatives may partly determine who gets this disease. For example, changes in the NOD2 gene and the SLC224A gene have been linked to Crohn's disease. But having these genetic mutations alone does not mean you will get Crohn's.
Certain foods can make symptoms worse for some people with Crohn's, but these foods do not cause the disease. Also, Crohn's is not caused by stress, tension or anxiety.
Experts believe that Crohn's is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Researchers continue to look for a cause and for better ways to improve the lives of those affected by this complex disease.
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. About Crohn's. http://www.ccfa.org/info/about/crohns
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Crohn's Disease. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/crohns/#caus
Last Modified Date: June 30, 2010 © Accordant Health Services, a CVS/Caremark company. All rights reserved. This article has been reviewed for accuracy by a member of the Accordant Health Services Medical Advisory Team. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Use of this online service is subject to the disclaimer and the terms and conditions.