At this time, there is no cure for Crohn's disease, though the disease can be successfully managed. Researchers do have suspects as to the culprit of Crohn’s, however.
Genetic and environmental factors are both believed to play a role in causing the disease.
At least two of the 46 human chromosomes—chromosome 5 and chromosome 10—have been associated with Crohn's.
The disease can be found in any population, but is more common in Caucasians and Jews of eastern European ancestry (called Ashkenazim). People with family members who suffer from Crohn's disease are much more likely to have it themselves.
People in developed, urban areas are more likely to have Crohn's, leading experts to believe that pollution, dietary changes and other factors that accompany city life play a part in contributing to the disease.
Whether or not someone smokes also appears to be a significant factor. A history of smoking makes Crohn's more likely to develop, and the habit also appears to aggravate symptoms.
Even the possibility of an indescribable bacteria or virus as the cause or a contributor of Crohn’s is being explored.
The cause could involve one factor, or many factors in combination.
Until the cure is found, there are steps that someone can take to minimize the disease's impact on his or her life.
The primary treatment involves a combination of drug therapy and lifestyle changes, but surgery is also common occurrence amongst people with Crohn's disease.
Dr. R. Balfour Sartor, a professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reported that he was reluctant to put a timeframe on when a cure might be found. He did say, however, that researchers are much closer to understanding the cause of the disease, which is the prerequisite for a cure.
It may very well be that groups of people with Crohn's have a specific combination of genetics, immunological function and bacterial profile that leads to the onset of the disease, Dr. Sartor, who is also the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s chief medical adviser, stated. This means each group, once that set of factors is identified, will need their own specialized treatment plan for its Crohn's disease.
Identifying these subsets within the broader Crohn's population is one of the foundation's research goals, he said.
“Certainly within the next ten years, and I'm hoping in the next five years, we'll be able to identify subsets,” Dr. Sartor reported.