Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a disease in which inflammation can cause damage to the digestive tract, also known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  Inflammation causes the intestines to become inflamed (red, raw, and swollen).  This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including abdominal pain or cramping, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding.  It may affect any area of the  GI tract from the mouth to the anus, but it most commonly is found in the end of the small intestine (ileum) and the beginning of he colon (cecum).

About 1.6 million Americans have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  This figure includes about 780,000 people with Crohn's and another 907,000 with ulcerative colitis.  Researchers have estimated that 6 to 15 new cases of Crohn's are diagnosed per 100,000 people each year.  IBD is more common in adults than children.  People are most often diagnosed with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis in late adolescence or early adulthood, although the diagnosis can occur at any age.  Population-based studies show that Crohn' disease is slightly more common in women than men, while ulcerative colitis is slightly more common in men than women.

IBD is more common in whites than African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, or American Indians.  However, the rate of diagnosis in African American patients is on the rise, approaching the rate in whites.  Ashkenazi Jews are at higher than average risk of Crohn's disease.  

IBD generally seems to be more common in the north than in the south.  Within the USA, the number of people with IBD is higher in the Northeast and Midwest than in the South and West.  Worldwide, the regions with the most new cases of IBD are North America, northern Europe, and the United Kingdom.  Cases of IBD are much less common in central Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  IBD is also more common in industrialized countries than in developing nations.  There are several possible reasons for this pattern.  It might be that health care providers in developing nations do not recognize or diagnose the disease  They may also attribute diarrhea to infections or other causes. Or, perhaps, there could be environmental factors that protect people in less developed countries from Crohn's disease.  Similarly, changes in diet and lifestyle as societies become more industrialized might be one cause of IBD


Crohn's disease is becoming more common in children and adults in the USA.  In 2004-2005, 43 children and 214 adults per 100,000 people had Crohn's and 27 children and 235 adults per 100,000 people had ulcerative colitis.  In 2008-2009, these estimates rose to 48 children and 236 adults per 100,00 people for Crohn's and 29 children and 248 adults per 100,000 people for ulcerative colitis. 

The cost of inflammatory bowel disease is staggering.  The total cost of Crohn's disease in the United States is about $3.6 billion each year.  The average yearly medical expenses per patient is $8,265, with more than one-third of that cost due to medications.  Biologic medications are generally the most expensive.  Hospitalization accounted for 31.4% of the cost.  On average, people who have to be hospitalized for Crohn's spend about 5.8 days in the hospital.  Another estimate shows that there were 84,000 days of hospitalization and 1.3 million outpatient visits due to Crohn's disease.

The total cost of ulcerative colitis in the USA is about 2.7 billion each year.  The average yearly medical expenses per patient is $7,948, with hospitalization accounting for the largest portion (37.6%) of those costs and medications making up 27.5% of the total expenses.

Those patients with Crohn's disease are inherently vulnerable to other diseases exacerbated simply by having Crohn's.  Crohn's patients are a harborage for nearly every chronic health condition out there.  Such as, but not limited to the following:

Cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cancer, skin diseases, arthritis, kidney disease liver disease, and many more.  Crohn's is the disease that just keeps giving.

I intend to post other interesting facts about this disease here on this page in days to come.  But for now, I think all the information I've supplied will at least give you a general idea of the enormity and severity of this insidious disease.  And we've barely scratched the surface.  Be kind and understanding of your friend or family member who is suffering from Crohn's or colitis, because you have absolutely NO IDEA just what they are going through or how they are feeling.   Thank you on behalf of Crohn's and colitis patients everywhere.  CARROLL