Mercy Gastroenterologist Dr. Richard Desi Discusses Link Between Smoking And Crohn's Disease

June 4, 2012
Mercy gastroenterologist Dr. Richard Desi

Mercy gastroenterologist Dr. Richard Desi

Crohn's disease is an uncomfortable autoimmune disease that can be made worse by smoking, according to doctors.

Crohn's causes the body to attack itself. It happens in the gastrointestinal tract and causes inflammation of the intestines, as well as pain and diarrhea.

According to gastroenterologist Dr. Richard Desi of The Institute for Digestive Health and Liver Disease at Mercy, smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to develop Crohn's.

"It's also shown that with Crohn's, smoking can cause flares and a recurrence of the disease, especially after you've had surgery," he said.

The theory is that it's exacerbated by the nicotine effect or from smoke by-products. But there is good news for those who quit.

"If you quit smoking, about a year out, it puts you back in a category as if you had never smoked, in terms of flares, recurrence and severity of the disease," Dr. Desi said.

Tiffany Delaney was diagnosed with Crohn's disease when she was 17.

"For years, I had terrible stomach pains. I was always balled over in pain, I didn't want to eat. I was getting sick for no reason, and my parents said, 'We've got to figure out what's wrong,'" she explained.

Delaney had never heard of Crohn's disease, so she smoked while she had it.

"I smoked from when I went to college on, for about 10 years," she said.

Delaney's first major flare was when she was 25 and still smoking, and she had to be hospitalized for four days.

"Especially for Crohn's patients, there are always things to alleviate pain. But (quitting smoking) should be the first one," she said.

For smokers, quitting could be just as good as taking medicine for Crohn's. Quitters have a 65 percent lower risk of a flare-up and are less likely to need steroids or other medications.



Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874, Mercy Medical Center is a university-affiliated medical facility named one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters with a national reputation for women’s health. Mercy is home to the nationally acclaimed Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine as well as the $400+ million, 20-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center. For more information visit Mercy online at, Facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-MD-MERCY.

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