Crohn’s Disease

Large Intestine

Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive tract, but most often affects the lower part of the small intestine, an area called the ileum.

Crohn’s disease causes inflammation to develop within the lining of the ileum, which often causes pain and hyperactivity causing diarrhea.

The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, but the condition is linked to problems with the body’s immune system response, and is considered an autoimmune disorder. Generally, the immune system protects the body from disease, but in patients with Crohn’s disease the immune system is unable to differentiate between normal body tissue and foreign substances. This results in an overactive immune response, which can lead to chronic inflammation.

Hereditary factors such as being of Jewish ancestry or having a family history of Crohn’s disease are both risk factors for developing the condition. Crohn’s disease can develop at any age, but most frequently first occurs in people between 15 and 35.

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

There are a variety of symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Symptoms range depending on the area of the gastrointestinal tract that is affected by the inflammation, and can be either mild or severe. Many people who suffer from Crohn’s disease experience flare-ups of symptoms that come and go overtime.

Common signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite
  • Tenesmus, or pain with passing stool
  • Persistent, watery diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss

Other, less common signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease may include:

  • Constipation
  • Inflammation of the eyes
  • Fistulas
  • Joint pain
  • Liver inflammation
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Bloody stools
  • Ulcers
  • Skin lumps
  • Swollen gums

Diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease

If your gastroenterologist suspects that you may be suffering from Crohn’s disease, then he will recommend a series of tests to confirm the diagnosis. A blood test may be recommended to identify anemia, which could indicate bleeding in the intestines, or could detect a high white blood count which is a sign of inflammation somewhere in the body. Your physician may also request a stool sample for evaluation to detect if there is an infection or bleeding in the intestines.

Other examinations that may be recommended to diagnose Crohn’s disease include an upper GI series or barium x-ray, flexible sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy.

Treatment for Crohn’s Disease

If you are diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, then your gastroenterologist will provide you with in-depth information concerning treatment options that are available to you, including the benefits and complications associated with those treatments.

Treatment for Crohn’s disease often includes drug therapy including anti-inflammation drugs, cortisone /steroids, antibiotics and immune system suppressors.

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