What Is Crohn’s Disease?
A type of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive tract. Although it commonly affects individuals in their late teens or early 20s, it can develop at any age affecting men and women equally.
Several risk factors have been identified to influence Crohn’s disease including environmental and genetic factors.
In this article, we will discuss how genetics can affect your risk for developing Crohn’s disease.
Check your 23andMe raw data for genetic risk of Crohn’s disease.
Is Crohn’s disease genetic?
Studies have shown that around 15% of the individuals affected by Crohn’s disease have an immediately affected relative.
Some environmental factors like diet, alcohol consumption, and smoking also act as influences.
What are the genetic risk factors for Crohn’s disease?
Mutations in some genes on chromosomes 5 and 10 are linked to Crohn’s disease.
Notably, ATG16L1, IL23R, IRGM, and NOD2 genes appear to increase the risk of developing Crohn’s disease.
Mutations in the above genes affect gut bacteria which in turn affects the ability of the intestinal cells to respond to it. This leads to symptoms of inflammation and digestive issues associated with Crohn’s disease
How Prevalent is Crohn’s disease?
Around 3 million adults reported being diagnosed with either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis as of 2015 in the United States.
For reasons still unknown, Crohn’s disease is also becoming increasingly common in children.
What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?
Some symptoms of Crohn’s disease to be aware of include:
- abdominal pain and cramping
- bloody stool
- small appetite
- weight loss
- perianal disease
- inflammation of eyes, skin, and joints
- inflammation of liver or bile ducts
- slowed growth and sexual development in children
How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?
As with any complex condition Crohn’s disease cannot be diagnosed effectively using a single test. A mixture of tests like biopsy, radiological scan, blood tests, computerized tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to diagnose Crohn’s disease.
Prenatal genetic testing for mutations in the NOD2 gene is also done for pregnant women. Simply finding a mutation in this gene does not necessarily indicate a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. It only indicates an increased risk of developing the disease.
What is the prognosis for Crohn’s disease?
There is no known cure for Crohn’s disease. The main objective for treatment is the relief of symptoms and disease remission. Remission is when you don’t feel any noticeable symptoms of the disease.
Remission can last from days to years and varies between individuals.
Treatment of Crohn’s disease involves a combination of drugs and sometimes surgery. Antibiotics, biologics, anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, diet, and more are potential therapies that may be recommended by your healthcare team.
- Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects individuals between their teenage years to their 20s.
- Genetics is a heavy influence in the development of Crohn's disease with 15% of affected individuals having an immediate relative who is also affected.
- Common symptoms of Crohn's disease include abdominal pain and cramping, fever and diarrhea.
- Mutations in the ATG16L1, IL23R, IRGM, and NOD2 genes appear to increase the risk of developing Crohn’s disease.
- Crohn's disease can be diagnosed using a combination of standard and genetic tests.
- There is no known cure for Crohn's disease. Existing treatment aims for relief from symptoms and remission.