Causes and risk factors for Crohn's disease

Research into Crohn's disease progresses along several promising avenues, but the underlying cause of the disease remains unknown to this day.


No single causal gene has been identified, but about hundred genes which predispose (or increase susceptibility) to the condition have been recently identified. The fact that the disease may run in some families also suggests a genetic explanation for the disease.


Environmental factors may also have a role: smoking is an important risk factor for Crohn's disease.  Risk factors present in the western lifestyle may also play a part, but to date none have been precisely identified.

Other avenues of research are also being actively pursued, notably that of an imbalance in the intestinal flora, which may contribute to the onset or treatment of the disease. 

Dietary factors, such as dietary intolerances or stress also play a role in exacerbating the condition. These factors do not cause the disease but may lead to the onset of an exacerbation.

Finally, Crohn's disease is also suspected to be an auto-immune disease, in which antibodies directed against the body's own tissues develop, possibly because of an over-reaction to the presence of bacteria in the gut (the intestinal flora).

Last updated: 22/04/2018

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