Pathology dictionary

Crohn’s disease

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is caused by long-term or chronic inflammation that damages the digestive tract and prevents it from working normally. The symptoms of Crohn’s disease include diarrhea, fever, weight loss, bloating, and bloody stools.

To learn more about your pathology report for Crohn’s disease, read our article on chronic colitis.

What parts of the body are involved?

The digestive tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small bowel, and colon. The disease typically involves the small bowel and colon, but the other areas can also be affected. Some patients with Crohn’s disease will experience symptoms that involve parts of the body outside of the digestive tract. Doctors call these extra-intestinal complications.

How do pathologists make this diagnosis?

If your doctor suspects Crohn’s disease based on your symptoms, they will perform a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a procedure where a small camera is used to see the inside of your colon. To determine whether inflammation is present, they will take tissue samples, called biopsies. Because this disease can affect one part of the colon but not another, they will likely take multiple biopsies from the entire length of the colon.

When examined under the microscope, the changes seen in Crohn’s disease can look very similar to another type of IBD called ulcerative colitis. For this reason, pathologists use the term chronic colitis to describe the features seen in both types of IBD.

Your doctors will use the information in your pathology report along with other information they have collected (e.g. what they saw during the colonoscopy and other symptoms you have reported) before making the final diagnosis.

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