Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which occurs when an abnormal immune system response leads to chronic inflammation anywhere in the GI or digestive tract – from the mouth to the anus. This condition was named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn, a physician who first described it in 1932.
Even though the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis which is yet another type of IBD are quite similar, they areas affected in the gastrointestinal tract are very different.
Crohn’s disease usually affects the end of the ileum which is the small bowe and the beginning of the colon. Moreover, it can also affect any other part of the gastrointestinal tract from starting from the mouth to the anus. On the other hand, when it comes to ulcerative colitis, it affects only the colon also known as the large intestine. It should also be mentioned that while Crohn’s disease affects the entire thickness of the bowel wall, ulcerative colitis only affects the innermost lining of the colon. At last but not least, in Crohn’s disease, the inflammation of the intestine can “skip”– leaving normal areas in between patches of diseased intestine while this cannot occur in ulcerative colitis.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms
Even though the symptoms can be different for different people, still some of them are pretty common like the following ones:
Symptoms related to inflammation of the GI tract:
Urgent need to move bowels
Abdominal cramps and pain
Sensation of incomplete evacuation
Constipation (can lead to bowel obstruction)
General symptoms that may also be associated with IBD:
Loss of appetite
Loss of normal menstrual cycle
Fatigue, feeling of low energy, loss of appetite, sudden loss of weight are all symptoms that indicate Crohn’s disease. When it comes to younger children, this condition can delay growth and development.
Crohn’s patients may experience periods when the disease flares up and causes symptoms, followed by periods of remission when patients won’t notice symptoms at all because this condition is considered as chronic one.
Unfortunately, there are severe cases of this condition which leads to tears in the lining of the anus, and as a result it causes pain and bleeding. Moreover, fistula develops due to inflammation. It is a tunnel leading from one loop of intestine to another, or that connects the intestine to the skin, vagina of bladder. This condition requires immediate medical attention because it is extremely serious.
What are the Causes of Crohn’s Disease? Who is Affected?
According to the statistics, this disease can affect as many as 700,000 Americans, it can affect both men and women at any age, but it is more likely to affect adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35.
It is commonly known that stress and diet can worsen this condition, but they do not cause the disease on their own. According to a recent research, Crohn’s disease is hereditary, or it can be cause by environmental factors.
You should know that GI tract contains harmless bacteria which aid digestion. Foreign invaders like fungi, viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms get attacked by our immune system. The harmless bacteria in the intestines are protected from such an attack in normal circumstances. However, in people who suffer from IBD, harmless bacteria get mistaken for harmful invaders and the immune system attacks them as well. Cells travel out of the blood to the intestines and produce inflammation which is a normal immune system response. Nevertheless, due to the fact that inflammation doesn’t subside, it leads to thickening of the intestinal wall, chronic inflammation, ulceration and eventually causing patient symptoms.
As we previously mentioned, Crohn’s disease is hereditary, which means that if you or someone in your family have this disease, the other family members are very likely to develop this disease as well. According to many studies, 5% to 20% of affected individuals have a first – degree relative (parents, child, or sibling) with one of the diseases. The chances of developing Crohn’s disease are higher than to develop ulcerative colitis. Moreover, the risk is even greater if both parents have IBD.
Since the environment plays a big role in developing Crohn’s disease, people living in undeveloped countries, in urban rather than rural areas and in northern rather than southern climates are more likely to develop this disease.
PUT CROHN’S IN REMISSION:
Sadly, there is no remedy for Crohn’s disease, all you can do is to manage the symptoms, induce remission and prevent flare-ups. In order to achieve this, you need to reduce or control the inflammation that triggers the symptoms.