The exact cause of Crohn's disease is still not well understood. But researchers believe it is most likely caused by several factors, which include:

  • your immune system: The body's defence system reacts abnormally, mistaking environmental factors such as bacteria, foods, and other substances for being foreign. The immune system then attacks these substances, causing white blood cells to gather in the lining of the digestive system. This results in inflammation, which causes ulceration and injury to the digestive system lining.
  • your inherited genes: People have a higher risk of Crohn's disease if they have a close relative with the disease.
  • your environment: Crohn's disease is more prevalent in northern climates in developed areas of the world (e.g., North America, northern Europe). It is thought that some environmental factors may play a role in triggering inflammation.

Could you be at risk? Although anyone can develop Crohn's disease, there are a few things that can increase your risk:

  • family history: Crohn's disease tends to run in families. If you have a relative with Crohn's disease, your risk is increased.
  • race: Caucasians, especially Ashkenazi Jews of European descent, are at a higher risk of Crohn's disease.
  • location: The risk of Crohn's disease is highest in North America and northern Europe.
  • smoking: Smokers are at a higher risk of Crohn's disease.

If you're concerned about your risk of Crohn's disease, speak with your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to a gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in the digestive system).