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What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is a condition of chronic inflammation potentially involving any location of the gastrointestinal tract, but it frequently affects the end of the small bowel and the beginning of the large bowel. In Crohn’s disease, all layers of the intestine may be involved and there can be normal healthy bowel between patches of diseased bowel.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that symptoms include persistent diarrhea (loose, watery, or frequent bowel movements), cramping, abdominal pain, fever, and, at times, rectal bleeding. Loss of appetite and weight loss also may occur. However, the disease is not always limited to the gastrointestinal tract; it can also affect the joints, eyes, skin, and liver. Fatigue is another common complaint.

The most common complication of Crohn’s disease is blockage of the intestine due to swelling and scar tissue. Symptoms of blockage include cramping pain, vomiting, and bloating. Another complication is sores or ulcers within the intestinal tract. Sometimes these deep ulcers turn into tracts—called fistulas. In 30 percent of people with Crohn’s disease, these fistulas become infected. Patients may also develop a shortage of proteins, calories, or vitamins. They generally do not develop unless the disease is severe and of long duration.

What causes Crohn’s disease?

The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown. It is an autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. People with Crohn’s disease have ongoing (chronic) inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). Crohn’s disease may involve the small intestine, the large intestine, the rectum, or the mouth. The inflammation causes the intestinal wall to become thick.

There are different types of Crohn’s disease. The type depends on what part of your body is affected.

The following factors are believed to play a role in Crohn’s disease:
  • Your genes
  • Environmental factors
  • The body over-reacts to normal bacteria in the intestines

Crohn’s disease may occur at any age. It usually occurs in people between ages 15 – 35.

You are more likely to get this disease if you:
  • Have a family history of Crohn’s disease
  • Are Jewish
  • Smoke

How is Crohn’s disease treated?

There are several areas of effective treatment for Crohn’s disease:

Diet and Nutrition

You should eat a well-balanced, healthy diet. It is important to get enough calories, protein, and essential nutrients from a variety of food groups. No specific diet has been shown to make Crohn’s symptoms better or worse. Specific food problems may vary from person to person. However, certain types of foods can make diarrhea and gas worse.

To help ease symptoms, try:
  • Eating small amounts of food throughout the day.
  • Drinking plenty of water (drink small amounts often throughout the day).
  • Avoiding high-fiber foods (bran, beans, nuts, seeds, and popcorn).
  • Avoiding fatty, greasy or fried foods and sauces (butter, margarine, and heavy cream).
  • Limiting dairy products if you have problems digesting dairy fats, or trying low lactose products and enzyme products to break down lactose.
  • Avoiding foods that you know cause gas, such as beans.


You may feel worried, embarrassed, or even sad and depressed about having a bowel accident. Other stressful events in your life, such as moving, a job loss, or the loss of a loved one can cause digestive problems. Ask your doctor or nurse for tips on how to manage your stress.


Medicines that may be prescribed include:
  • Aminosalicylates (5-ASAs) are medicines that help control mild to moderate symptoms. Some forms of the drug are taken by mouth; others must be given rectally.
  • Corticosteroids (prednisone and methylprednisolone) are used to treat moderate to severe Crohn’s disease. They may be taken by mouth or inserted into the rectum.
  • Medicines such as azathioprine or 6-mercaptopurine quiet the immune system’s reaction.
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed for abscesses or fistulas.
  • Biologic therapy is used to treat patients with severe Crohn’s disease that does not respond to any other types of medication.

Some patients may need surgery to remove the entire large intestine (colon), with or without the rectum.

How a specialty pharmacy can help?

Kroger Specialty Pharmacy optimizes outcomes by providing a high-touch, caring experience with a blend of specialized clinical knowledge and personalized total life care programs.

We are able to provide Crohn’s disease patients, providers and partners with the necessary coordination of care vital to achieving successful treatment outcomes. By utilizing Kroger Specialty Pharmacy's expert patient care team comprised of Doctors of Pharmacy, registered pharmacists and nurses, reimbursement specialists and dedicated Patient Care Coordinators (PCCs), we are able to offer each and every patient and partner with high-quality, personalized care, ongoing patient evaluation and clinical support including frequent patient follow-up and continual education about their Crohn’s disease treatment.