The average age for someone with Crohn’s disease to receive a diagnosis is 29.5 years, although a person can develop the condition during adolescence. People may have Crohn’s disease for up to 5 years before receiving a diagnosis, or they may have a “silent” version, with no symptoms.
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and irritation in the digestive tract. It most commonly affects the small intestine and beginning of the large intestine but can occur in any part of the digestive tract, causing symptoms such as diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, and abdominal pain.
The condition results from a complex interaction between a person’s genes, immune system, and environmental factors that affect them.
Crohn’s disease has become more common in recent years and affects approximately half a million people in the United States.
This article explores the average age at which a person might receive a Crohn’s disease diagnosis and provides more information on diagnoses in children. It also discusses possible genetic causes of Crohn’s disease and the impact it can have on a person’s life.
According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (CCF), most people receive a Crohn’s disease diagnosis between the ages of 15 and 35. The average age of Crohn’s disease diagnosis is 29.5 years.
Gastroenterologists can determine whether a person has silent Crohn’s disease by testing an inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein or performing an endoscopy using a flexible tube to examine the digestive tract.
According to the CCF, a diagnosis of IBD is rare in children under the age of 8. Most people receive a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease after the age of 15.
The CCF also notes that Crohn’s disease occurs in children twice as frequently as ulcerative colitis, which is another type of IBD, and that it develops slightly more often in boys than it does in girls.
Moreover, if a person develops Crohn’s disease in childhood, the condition may be more extensive and follow a more severe course than if it occurs in adulthood.
IBD may affect a child’s natural growth. One-third of children with Crohn’s disease do not reach their potential adult height. Other children may experience delayed puberty.
Crohn’s disease can run in families, and people can be more likely to develop the condition if a close relative has it.
Between 5 and 20% of people with Crohn’s disease have a biological relative with some form of IBD. This is usually a brother or sister, and sometimes, it is a parent.
According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, children with one parent with Crohn’s disease have a 7–9% lifetime risk of developing the condition and a 10% likelihood of developing some form of IBD.
If both parents have IBD, the risk of their children developing Crohn’s disease increases to 35%.
However, review authors do not associate the NOD2 gene with disease risk in individuals of Chinese, Malay, or Indian descent that have Crohn’s disease in the last part of the small intestine, or the ileum.
Moreover, authors of the review suggest that there are 200 genetic regions associated with disease risk, and scientists need to understand further the complexities of inheriting the condition.
Living with Crohn’s disease can have a debilitating impact on an individual’s physical and mental health, affecting their overall well-being and quality of life.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:
- abdominal cramps or pain
- unexplained weight loss
- eye redness or pain
- joint pain or soreness
- loss of appetite
- flushed skin or tender bumps under the skin
People will experience varying severities of Crohn’s disease. With the right treatment, a person can enter a period of remission, where they will experience fewer or no symptoms. A person with Crohn’s disease can live a full and active life.
A doctor can help a person manage their Crohn’s disease with medication, surgical treatment, or psychological support.
People with Crohn’s disease may develop complications either inside or outside the digestive tract. These include:
- a fistula, which is an ulcer extending from the intestine wall to the skin or another organ
- a stricture, which is a narrowing of the intestine and can lead to a blockage
- an abscess that develops in the pelvis, abdomen, or anal area
- perforated bowel
- malabsorption, which can lead to malnutrition
- painful eyes, mouth, skin, or joints
- kidney stones
- rarely, liver damage
If an individual has digestive or other symptoms that they are concerned about, they should consult a doctor for a diagnosis.
If a person’s symptoms of IBS are getting worse, they should also contact a doctor, who can order tests to help determine whether they have IBD.
Additionally, people with Crohn’s disease need to make a doctor aware of any worsening or new symptoms, and seek support if their condition affects their mental health.
Most people receive a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease between the ages of 15–35 years, with the average age being 29.5 years.
However, some people have a silent, or asymptomatic, form of the condition, while others have it for up to 5 years before they receive a diagnosis.
People can inherit Crohn’s disease. The likelihood of developing it increases if a close relative, such as a sibling or parent, has the condition.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be debilitating, affecting a person’s mental health, well-being, and confidence. That is why people should contact a doctor, who can help them manage their symptoms and support their mental health.