Granulomas are white blood cell clusters that are sometimes found in people with Crohn’s disease. They can make a Crohn’s diagnosis more definitive. Treatments don’t necessarily change based on granulomas being present.

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Although millions of people in the United States live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the symptoms don’t always make it easy to diagnose the particular condition.

One of the ways to more confidently confirm a Crohn’s disease diagnosis is by identifying granulomas, or nodules of white blood cells and other tissues.

This article will provide more detail on granulomas and their connection to Crohn’s disease, as well as what their presence can mean in the context of diagnosing the condition.

A granuloma is a nodule or lump of white blood cells and other tissues. Granulomas can develop underneath the skin or deep inside the body in the lungs or intestines. They may be found in the intestines during surgery or as part of an endoscopy-related biopsy.

Granulomas are typically noncancerous and part of the body’s response to inflammation, infection, or foreign objects. They may be caused by diseases, irritating substances, and autoimmune conditions.

They try to protect the body in two ways:

  1. keeping an infection in one place and preventing it from spreading
  2. isolating an irritant or foreign object to prevent it from doing more damage

More research is needed to understand exactly why granulomas are formed in some individuals with Crohn’s disease.

Recent research on this topic doesn’t provide information on how often granulomas are found in people with Crohn’s disease. However, older research found a large range of 21% to 60% of people with Crohn’s cases had granulomas present.

One theory is that granulomas are the body’s way of trying to deal with the cause of Crohn’s. The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, but the body may be trying to form granulomas around the source of the inflammation.

Some studies have shown that granulomas may indicate a more severe disease course with a greater degree of flare-ups and need for hospitalizations.

This means some individuals with granulomas may experience more unpleasant symptoms and require more aggressive management of their Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease symptoms

In general, these are the symptoms you may experience with Crohn’s disease with or without granulomas present:

You can read more about Crohn’s disease at Healthline.

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The exact significance of the development of granulomas in those with Crohn’s disease and any effect granulomas may have on symptoms still requires more research, though.

There is currently no known cure for Crohn’s disease. However, treatment for intestinal granulomas in people with Crohn’s disease focuses on reducing the inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease.

Anti-inflammatory medications and in some cases surgery can be used to help control the amount of inflammation individuals experience. When anti-TNF therapy is used to help stop inflammation and ease symptoms, granuloma formation typically decreases.

In addition to medication and surgery, doctors may suggest dietary adjustments since some foods can trigger inflammation in the GI tract for those with Crohn’s disease. If you would like to learn more about this, information on Crohn’s-friendly diets is available here.

Finding intestinal granulomas can be one way to more definitely diagnose an individual with Crohn’s disease. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s still possible to have Crohn’s disease without granulomas and granulomas aren’t just limited to those with Crohn’s disease, though.

Future research will hopefully be able to offer more guidance into why some individuals with Crohn’s disease develop granulomas and others do not. It will also hopefully shed more light on how granulomas affect Crohn’s disease.