What is Crohn’s disease (CD)?

What happens to the body when suffering from CD?

Acute inflammation is the body's normal immune response to intruders (bacteria and viruses). In people with CD, chronic inflammation occurs and damages the intestinal wall. The whole of the digestive tract may be affected by Crohn's disease.

What causes CD?

The exact cause is unknown.

What are the symptoms of CD?

Intestinal symptoms

Extra-intestinal symptoms

Abdominal pain
Weight loss
Decreased appetite
Mouth ulcers

Skin problems
Inflammation of the joints
Inflammation of the eyes
CD is sometimes associated with a biliary tract disorder

Can CD be treated?

Yes. Although it cannot be cured, CD can be managed to control the symptoms and the intestinal inflammation. Long-term treatment will be necessary. Starting the appropriate treatment as soon as possible can not only relieve the symptoms (e.g. pain, diarrhea) but also help prevent irreversible intestinal damage.

There are several types of treatments3


Treats the complications but does not cure the disease, which often reoccurs at the operated site.*


These drugs target specific parts of the immune response in order to reduce the symptoms and slow down intestinal damage if immunosuppressants are not sufficient.


Immunosuppressive treatments modulate the action of your immune system. They are useful when anti-inflammatory treatments are not sufficiently effective.


Used to reduce the severe inflammation associated with CD. Taken for a short period.


These drugs reduce inflammation. They are used to reduce the symptoms in the event of a flare-up. Some of them can be used for a longer period to decrease the risk of relapse.

*Surgical indications are restricted to severe conditions and/or cases where drug treatments have failed.

What is the impact of CD?

The impact of CD varies greatly from person to person. Moreover, the course of the disease is unpredictable, with symptoms that appear and disappear. A person with CD may feel fine for months, and then a flare may occur suddenly.

At the time of diagnosis, most patients only have inflammation.

One in three patients already have complications (stenosis/obstruction, fistula, abscess) at the time of diagnosis. During the first 20 years of having the disease, one in two patients develop complications.4

One in two patients will undergo surgery within 5 to 10 years following the diagnosis.4

What are the implications of CD?

CD may have consequences in the following areas:


Interactions with others


What can
a patient do?

It is important to recognize symptoms and take the prescribed medication according to the recommended plan. Ensure your patient seeks support from spouses, family, friends...

Common myths

False A varied and balanced diet is important. Every person must find the diet that suits them best.

False Treatments are available to relieve the symptoms and to help prevent, or at least delay, irreversible intestinal damage. Although the disease cannot be cured, most people with CD can continue doing the activities they enjoy.

True and False The causes of Crohn's disease are not yet really known. Genetics plays a role, but environmental factors and “chance” also play a part in the onset of the disease.

False again If you follow your treatment properly, and possibly with a few adjustments, in most cases you will be able to continue your professional activity.

  1. Ananthakrishnan, AN. Nat. Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 2015;12:205-217
  2. Molodecky NA et al, Gastroenterology 2012;142:46–54
  3. http://www.bcfi.be/GGR/Index.cfm?ggrWelk=/GGR/MPG/MPG_C.cfm accessed May 2021
  4. Peyrin-Biroulet L et al, Am J Gastroenterol. 2010; 105:289–297

CD = Crohn's Disease

AbbVie SA/NV - BE-IMM-210045 (v1.0) - June 2021