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Is Crohn’s Disease Genetic?

Medically reviewed by Asma Khapra, MD, Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on January 8, 2023

Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease caused by an immune response that makes the intestines become swollen and ulcerated. Risk factors for Crohn’s disease are many and varied, but genetics play a part in whether or not someone will manifest this disease.  


Does Crohn’s Disease Run in the Family?


Crohn’s disease is classified as a multifactorial disorder. This means that both genetic factors–what genes you inherit from your parents–and environmental factors contribute to whether or not you’ll experience this disease. So, though many members of a family may have Crohn’s disease, this may be because (1) they had a genetic predisposition to this type of autoimmune disorder, and (2) environmental condition such as smoking, antibiotic use or diet to name a few could impact it as well.


What are the Chances I’ll Have Crohn’s Disease If My Parents Do?


Roughly 15 percent of Crohn’s disease patients have at least one first-degree relative with the disease. It’s impossible to determine whether or not someone will get Crohn’s disease based solely on family history because lifestyle choices affect the likelihood so strongly. Taking care of your health with avoidance of smoking, good nutrition and regular exercise can reduce your likelihood of following in your family’s footsteps in this disease.


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Crohn's Disease - Lifestyle

Crohn's Disease - Lifestyle

What Are The Other Risk Factors? 


Along with your personal family history, your ethnicity may put you in a higher risk category. Certain ethnic groups, for example, those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, are demonstrably more likely to develop Crohn’s disease than others. Where you live may also affect whether or not you develop Crohn’s disease–those living in heavily urban environments have been found to be at higher risk. Debate continues as to whether this is actually because of the urban location or if the disease is more closely related to the “urban diet.”  


Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for Crohn’s and continues to be dangerous even if one already has the disease. Cigarettes can continue aggravating this condition and lead to a greater risk of serious ulceration and the need for surgery. If you have a family history of Crohn’s disease, don’t start smoking, and if you already do, quit as soon as possible. 


Certain medications are risk factors for Crohn’s disease. Chronic use of aspirin, ibuprofen, and antibiotics can trigger Crohn’s disease and cause flare ups. If you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, check with your doctor to determine which types of medications you can safely use.


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Crohn's Disease - Risk Factors

Crohn's Disease - Risk Factors

Am I Stuck With Crohn’s Disease? 


Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for Crohn’s disease; however there are many medications now available for treating the disease and reducing long term complications.. Learning what causes your particular flare ups and how you can avoid those is your best bet for living well with Crohn’s disease.




The genetic predisposition for Crohn’s disease is real, and certain ethnicities are more likely to develop it than others. However, lifestyle choices play a major role in determining whether or not you will actually develop the disease. Eating well, avoiding stress, quitting smoking, avoiding certain medications, and exercising regularly can all help. 




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