Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease or regional enteritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive tract. The most commonly affected sites are the large intestine and the terminal ileum. This medical condition causes stomach pain, weight loss, fever, and diarrhea. The disease is most often diagnosed in young adults. People with Crohn’s disease may also suffer from eye disorders, spondylitis, and kidney stones. Treatment may include surgery, medication, or nutritional supplements.

Causes and Risk Factors

This inflammatory bowel disease is caused by interactions between environmental, bacterial, and immunological factors. Men and women who smoke face a higher risk of developing this condition. People diagnosed with Crohn’s disease may have a biological relative with some form of inflammatory bowel disease.

Statistics indicate that over one and a half million Americans suffer from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This condition is also more common in people who have had their appendix removed. The exact cause of the disease is unknown. Experts believe that a virus may trigger Crohn’s disease.

Individuals who live in urban areas are more likely to develop this condition. Men and women are affected equally. Activation of the immune system in the intestines appears to be important in Crohn’s disease. Studies have shown that the immune system of those who suffer from this disease reacts abnormally to good bacteria and foods, which causes inflammation and bowel injury.

Crohn’s Disease Symptoms

This health condition can affect any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. Ulcers may form at the sites of the inflammation, which leads to dehydration, malnutrition, kidney stones, and vitamin deficiencies. Crohn’s disease has a wide range of symptoms that often mimic those triggered by less serious ailments.

People diagnosed with Crohn’s disease may experience severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, painful eyes (uveitis), swollen joints, and sore mouth due to ulcers on the tongue. This chronic disease usually causes loss of appetite, swollen gums, skin lumps, fistulas, liver inflammation, and constipation.

Many patients have symptoms for years prior to the diagnosis. The range and severity of symptoms varies. The disease is not always limited to the gastrointestinal tract; it can also affect the skin, eyes, joints, and liver. Some people with Crohn’s disease may develop tears in the lining of the anus, skin disorders, arthritis, and inflammation of the liver.

In early stages, this chronic inflammatory bowel disease causes small ulcerations on the inner surface of the bowel. As the disease progresses, the bowel can become obstructed. The ileum is affected in about half of cases. Sometimes fistulas can develop between the intestine and other organs. People who suffer from Crohn’s disease may feel extremely tired. The level of pain varies according to the patient. Children may experience delayed growth.

Diagnosis

Tests that may be done to diagnose Crohn’s disease include barium X-rays, colonoscopies, biopsies, blood tests, and stool analysis. Your doctor may also recommend an endoscopy, a barium enema, an intestinal permeability test, or a CT scan. This disease is suspected in patients who have had stomach pain and diarrhea for more than three weeks. The diagnosis of Crohn’s disease is based on a combination of histologic, endoscopic, and radiologic tests.

Treatment

People with Crohn’s disease should eat a healthy diet. Certain foods may worsen diarrhea. It is recommended to avoid fried foods and limit dairy products. Medicines that may be prescribed include antibiotics, corticosteroids, and aminosalicylates.

A bowel resection may be needed in patients who don’t respond to medications. Doctors use this surgical procedure to remove the damaged part of the intestine. Some patients with Crohn’s disease need surgery to remove the entire large intestine.

Dietary supplements can be given to prevent anemia and malabsorption. Medical treatment aims to suppress the inflammatory response. Because Crohn’s disease has a high recurrence rate, patients considering surgery should carefully weigh its benefits and risks. Most people diagnosed with this condition may continue to lead useful and productive lives.

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