This site is intended for US residents.

UCBCares® 1-844-599-CARE (2273)

This site is intended for US residents.
UCBCares® 1-844-599-CARE

Crohn's disease dictionary

Being familiar with words and phrases related to Crohn's disease (CD) will help you talk to your healthcare providers about the disease and the steps you can take to help manage it.

5-ASAs: Also known as aminosalicylates, these are common drugs that decrease inflammation and are used for many clinical conditions including CD. They can be taken orally or rectally. Please note that not all options have FDA approval for the treatment of CD.

Abscess: A collection of pus that develops in tissues, organs, or confined spaces.

Aminosalicylates: See 5-ASAs.

Anal fissure: A deep crevice in the skin around the anus, which makes bowel movements painful.

Anemia: Abnormally low levels of healthy red blood cells or of hemoglobin (the component that carries oxygen).

Antibiotics: Antibiotics are drugs that are used in mild to moderate Crohn's disease based on the theory that CD is caused or triggered by bacteria.

Antibody: A protein, part of your body's natural primary immune defense system, that neutralizes and helps remove foreign and dangerous substances in the body.

Anti-TNF therapy: A medicine that works by blocking a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha in the body.

Anus: The lower opening of the digestive tract, through which fecal matter is expelled.

Autoimmune disorder/disease: A condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and/or damages healthy body tissue. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune disorders, including CD.

Barium enema: A procedure in which a special barium dye is infused into the colon through a tube inserted into the rectum followed by a series of X-rays. This allows doctors to look at a visual outline of the colon lining.

Biologic: A substance derived from a living source that is used to treat disease.

Biopsy: The removal of a small piece of tissue from the body for laboratory testing and diagnosis.

Bowel, bowels: The intestines.

Cecum: The first part of the large intestine, connected to the small intestine.

Colectomy: The surgical removal of all or part of the colon.

Colon: The large intestine; one of two parts of the GI tract (the other is the ileum) most often affected by CD.

Colonoscopy: An examination of the colon and the rectum using an electronic imaging scope inserted gently into the anus and moved up through the colon while the image is projected onto a screen. This allows doctors to see inflamed tissue, abnormal growth, and ulcers.

Colostomy: The temporary or permanent surgical procedure that connects the colon to the abdominal wall to allow passage of digestive waste into an external bag attached to the abdomen.

Computed tomography (CT) scan: A technique that takes multiple cross-sectional X-ray images to generate detailed pictures of structures within the body.

Corticosteroids: Treatments used to suppress the immune system and help reduce inflammation. Corticosteroids are sometimes used in the treatment of inflammatory diseases, such as CD. Please note that not all options have FDA approval for the treatment of CD.

C-reactive protein (CRP): A protein produced by the liver, that when elevated, indicates inflammation.

Crohn's colitis: CD affecting only the colon.

Crohn's disease (CD): A chronic inflammatory bowel disease, usually involving the small and/or large intestine but sometimes affecting other parts of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract as well.

Crohn's Disease Activity Index (CDAI): A test used to measure the severity of Crohn's disease by examining symptoms such as number of bathroom visits and pain in the abdomen. The lower the score, the less severe the symptoms. The CDAI can range from 0 (no symptoms) to 600 (multiple symptoms).

Defecation: The elimination of fecal material from the rectum.

Digestion: The process of converting food into chemical substances that can be absorbed by the body.

Digestive system: The organs that break down and process food and eliminate waste, including the mouth, esophagus, salivary glands, stomach, intestines, rectum, and anus.

Duodenum: The first part of the small intestine extending from the stomach to the middle area of the small intestine (jejunum).

Dysplasia: An abnormality in the body's organs or tissues.

Endoscopy: A minimally invasive diagnostic test in which a small camera mounted on a tube is inserted into the digestive tract via the mouth or anus in order to visualize a specific area.

Erythema nodosum: Painful red sores often appearing on the lower legs or arms, often a sign that CD has become active.

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): A laboratory blood test that determines how quickly red blood cells (erythrocytes) fall to the bottom of a test tube. When inflammation is present, the cells clump together and become heavier than normal. The faster the blood cells fall, the more severe the inflammation.

Extra-intestinal manifestation/symptoms: Complications of CD that affect parts of the body other than the GI tract, such as eye inflammation, joint pain, skin rashes or lesions, fistulas, and fissures.

Feces: Also known as stool or fecal matter; the waste product of the digestive tract consisting of bacteria, cells shed from the intestines, secretions, and undigested food remains.

Fistula: An abnormal passage or duct that may develop in response to inflammation and ulceration associated with CD, usually originating from the intestinal tract or rectum and connecting to the bladder, vagina, skin, or other portions of the intestines.

Flare, flare-up: An increase in the severity of an individual's clinical disease symptoms.

Flora: The mix of bacteria and fungi normally residing in or around an organ.

Gastroduodenal Crohn's disease: CD that affects the stomach and duodenum (the first portion of the small intestine).

Gastroenteritis: Inflammation of the stomach and intestine.

Gastroenterologist: A doctor whose area of expertise is the digestive system. Gastroenterologists are often the specialists who manage treatment of CD.

Gastrointestinal (GI) tract: Those parts of the body, from the mouth to the anus, that are involved in breaking down and absorbing nutrients from food.

Granuloma: A firm mass (or node) of inflamed tissue; in CD, granulomas may develop in the GI tract.

Granulomatous colitis, Crohn's colitis: A type of CD that affects only the colon.

Gut: A term referring to the intestines.

Ileitis, Crohn's ileitis: A type of CD affecting the ileum (the end of the small intestine).

Ileocecal valve: The muscular ring that allows one-way passage of digested food from the small intestine into the colon.

Ileocolitis, Crohn's ileocolitis: A type of CD affecting the ileum and the colon, which usually also involves the valve between these 2 parts of the intestinal tract.

Ileostomy: A surgical procedure that connects the small intestine to the abdominal wall so as to bypass the large intestine and allow digestive waste to exit the body through an artificial opening in the abdomen.

Ileum: The end portion of the small intestine, extending from the jejunum to the colon; one of two parts of the GI tract (the other is the colon) most often affected by CD.

Immune-mediated disease: A condition that results from abnormal activity of the body's immune system.

Immune system: The biological system of the body involving all the cells and biochemical processes responsible for defending against infections.

Immunomodulators, immunosuppressants: Treatments used for many clinical conditions, including CD, that work by either suppressing or stimulating the immune system. Please note that not all options have FDA approval for the treatment of CD.

Indeterminate colitis: The diagnosis sometimes given when a definitive diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) cannot be made.

Inflammation: A series of reactions that normally activate cells and molecules of the immune system to prevent infection or repair tissue damage.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): A chronic disease of the intestinal tract in which inflammation of the intestines causes diarrhea, pain in the abdomen, and other symptoms. CD and ulcerative colitis are IBDs.

Intravenous (IV): A route of administering medication directly into the vein, usually through a needle or tube, to allow direct access to the blood. In CD, IV injection of medication may be done at an infusion center.

Jejunoileitis: A type of CD affecting the jejunum and the ileum.

Jejunum: The middle (and longest) portion of the small intestine, extending from the end of the duodenum to the beginning of the ileum.

Large intestine: The area of the digestive tract that functions to absorb water and remaining nutrients from digested waste and transport the remains out of the body. The large intestine is comprised of the colon and the cecum.

Lyophilized: The process of freezing and dehydrating a substance. When CIMZIA is given by a doctor or nurse it is in the form of a lyophilized powder before it is mixed with sterile water and injected.

Maintenance therapy: A therapy given to improve/maintain current health status or to try to prevent a relapse of disease.

Mucosa, mucous membrane: The moist inner lining of some organs (intestines, stomach, etc) and body cavities that is involved in the absorption of nutrients and production of mucous.

Obstruction: A blockage of the intestine, preventing passage of digested material. Obstruction can result from severe acute inflammation, chronic inflammation, or a buildup of scar tissue from many years of relapse and remission.

Ostomy: A surgical opening to allow excretion. (See Colostomy.)

Pathology: The study of disease; also, the causes, development, and processes of a disease.

PEGylation: A chemical process of modifying a molecule by the addition of polyethylene glycol (PEG) to help prolong its ability to work in the body.

Perforation: A hole in a body part, especially one caused by accident or disease.

Perianal: Near or around the anus.

Polyethylene glycol (PEG): A chemical used to modify a protein or drug so that its removal by the body is delayed or inhibited, thereby prolonging its ability to work in the body.

Polyp: A (usually noncancerous) growth or tumor arising on the lining of the GI tract.

Prostaglandins: Naturally occurring chemical messengers that, among other functions, may activate inflammation, produce pain, and cause fever.

Pseudopolyp: A protruding mass of tissue, such as that which may develop in ulcerative colitis.

Rectum: The last 6 to 8 inches of the large intestine.

Refractory: Resistant to treatment.

Remission: A period of time when signs or symptoms of a disease are minimal or absent.

Resection: Removal of a portion or all of an organ or other structure.

Sigmoidoscopy: The insertion of a flexible fiber-optic scope into the anus for the visualization of the rectum and the lower (sigmoid) colon. (See also Colonoscopy.)

Small bowel follow-through (SBFT): A diagnostic test during which a healthcare professional uses an X-ray machine to watch the progress of a fluid, such as barium, as it passes through the small intestine and into the large intestine.

Small intestine: A part of the digestive tract involved in the digestion and absorption of nutrients and that connects the stomach to the large intestine. The small intestine is divided into 3 parts: duodenum (upper), jejunum (middle), and ileum (lower).

Steroids: A class of drugs that reduce inflammation and suppress the body's immune system and that are often used to treat chronic inflammatory conditions, including CD and rheumatoid arthritis. Please note that not all options have FDA approval for the treatment of CD.

Stoma: An artificial opening created during surgery that connects a portion of the body cavity to the outside.

Stricture: An abnormal narrowing of the intestine.

Subcutaneous injection: A route of administering medication under the skin, as opposed to injection into a muscle (intramuscular) or directly into a vein (intravenous).

Tenesmus: A constant feeling of needing to empty the bowel, usually accompanied by pain, cramping, and straining.

Terminal ileum: The last part of the small intestine, just before it joins the colon.

Trigger: Something that either sets off a disease in people who are genetically predisposed to developing the disease or that causes a certain symptom to occur in a person who has a disease.

Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha; TNF-α): A protein (known as a cytokine) produced by the immune system that is involved in the inflammatory process. Too much TNF-α can contribute to the symptoms of CD.

Ulcer: An eroded area of the skin or mucous membranes caused by infection, which may result in leakage of fluids or contents out of the affected organ into the abdominal cavity or other parts of the body, resulting in pain or other complications.

Ultrasound: A diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs.


MedlinePlus Medical Dictionary. US National Library of Medicine, US Dept of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health.

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