In this article we will look at:
- What is Crohn’s disease?
- How does Crohn’s disease occur?
- Causes of Crohn's disease
- Who is prone to Crohn's disease?
- Symptoms of Crohn's disease
- Diagnosis of Crohn's disease
- Complications of Crohn's disease
- Treatment for Crohn's disease
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What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease, also known as ileitis or enteritis is a long-term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in the lining of the digestive system. This disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, comprising of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, and anus. In majority of the people, however, the lower part of the small intestine, i.e. the ileum, is affected.
This inflammatory bowel disease should not be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
The damaging inflammation of Crohn’s may cause abdominal pain, frequent diarrhoea and other symptoms which vary from mild to severe. In certain cases, it can also be life-threatening.
How does Crohn’s disease occur?
In Crohn’s disease, the immune system of the body attacks the harmless or the good virus, bacteria, or food in the gut that causes inflammation leading to bowel injury.
Since the immune system is involved, Crohn’s is medically classified as an autoimmune disorder. It has not been substantiated as to why the immune system suddenly begins to attack the gut bacteria, and the food. Due to the attack white blood cells accumulate in the lining of the gut, which triggers inflammation. This inflammation leads to ulcerations and bowel injury.
Since the exact cause of the malfunctioning immune system has not yet been found, scientists now believe that genetic factors may contribute in causing this disease. Furthermore, links have been discovered between this disease and mutations in genes located on chromosomes 5 and 10. These genetic variants affect the bacteria in the digestive system. Changes in the gut bacteria can cause the intestinal cells to respond to it abnormally, which in turn can cause inflammation and digestive issues that are associated with Crohn’s disease.
What are the causes of Crohn’s disease?
Though the exact causes of Crohn’s disease are not known, researchers believe a number of factors can contribute to this disease such as:
- a family history of Crohn’s disease
- a malfunctioning immune system that affects the gastrointestinal tract, causing inflammation that contributes to symptoms
- bacteria, a virus, or some unidentified factor in the environment that triggers an abnormal immune response
- cigarette smoking seems to contribute to the development of this disease
Who is prone to Crohn’s disease?
Some people are more prone to Crohn’s disease than others, such as:
- people with a family history of the disease
- women are slightly more likely to develop Crohn’s disease than men
- people who smoke a lot
- people who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
- people within 30 years of age
What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease? How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:
- chronic diarrhoea, often bloody and containing mucus or pus
- reduced appetite
- weight loss
- mouth sores
- abdominal pain and tenderness
- a feeling of a mass or fullness in the abdomen
- rectal bleeding
A gastroenterologist can diagnose Crohn’s disease by advising you to undergo a mix of tests and procedures such as:
- Stool tests
- Blood tests
- Sigmoidoscopy to investigate the lower bowel
- Colonoscopy to investigate the colon
- Endoscopy to check upper part of the gut
- Barium enema X-ray which shows the inside of the bowel
- CT scans for a 3-dimensional picture of the bowel
What are the complications of Crohn’s disease?
The complications of Crohn’s disease include:
- bowel obstruction
- anal fissure
- colon cancer
- other diseases such as anemia, skin disorders, osteoporosis, arthritis, and gallbladder or liver disease
- inflammation of skin, eyes and joints
- inflammation of the liver or bile ducts
- delayed growth or sexual development, in children
What is the treatment of Crohn’s disease?
Medical Treatment for Crohn's Disease
There is currently no cure for Crohn's disease, and there is no one treatment that works for everyone. The goal of the treatment is to reduce your symptoms.
Your doctor can prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, pain relievers, antidiarrheals, and vitamin supplements. In severe cases, the doctor may prescribe nutrition therapy, (wherein a special diet given via a feeding tube, or nutrients injected into a vein to treat your Crohn's disease), and also surgery.
Questions answered by trusted doctors
Did you know?
Cases of IBD in India
India has over 12 lakh cases of 'inflammatory bowel disease' or IBD annually but very few people are even aware of the seriousness and symptoms of the disease.
IBD cases in the world
About 50 lakh people have IBD across the world.
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