Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects a person’s intestinal tract. The location of the affliction in the intestinal tract as well as the severity of the problem can differ from person to person. While the exact causes of Crohn’s disease remain unknown, there are several factors which can cause a person to be susceptible or at risk to develop this disease.
A form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the body’s intestinal tract or multiple parts at once. Basically any part of the mouth, small intestine, large intestine, or the rectum may become afflicted by this disease. The disease is characterized by a problem in the immune system in which the body cannot distinguish healthy cells from foreign material. The immune system’s response to the perceived problem causes chronic inflammation in the area that the body sees as foreign, in this case the intestinal tract. The severity will vary but some cases of Crohn’s disease can become life threatening. Though scientists are still not sure why the immune system acts the way it does in sufferers of this disease, data and statistics have shown many commonalities between sufferers and several risk factors for Crohn’s disease have been identified.
Those between the ages of 15 and 35 years of age are the most susceptible group as Crohn’s disease is more likely to develop in people before the age of 30. There have been cases of the disease developing after the age of 30 but the majority occurs before this cutoff. Though Crohn’s can affect any race of people, Caucasians are at higher risk than other races. Those of Jewish ancestry also appear to have a higher risk of developing Crohn’s than any other ethnic group.
Location is another demographic factor. People who live in urban areas or industrialized countries have a higher chance of developing Crohn’s disease than those that do not. This could be due to a variety of environmental factors that are present in these areas as opposed to less developed countries with few urban areas. There also seems to be a higher risk for those living in northern areas of a country as opposed to those that live farther south.
Possibly one of the largest factors that can put a person at risk is heredity. Having a family member that has Crohn’s disease will also increase the risk of developing it as approximately 1 out of every 5 people that has Crohn’s disease has a family member that also has the disease.
Interestingly enough, smoking is actually a risk factor for Crohn’s disease. Smokers are statistically more likely to develop the disease than nonsmokers and quitting smoking will help reduce the chances for those that may already be at risk. Smoking can also cause complications with Crohn’s disease in addition to the other health problems that cigarette smoking is known to cause.