What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system. It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. This is painful, debilitating, and sometimes fatal.
Crohn’s disease, also known as ileitis or enteritis, affects any part of the intestine from the mouth to the anus. However, in most cases, the lower part of the small intestine, the ileum, is affected.
Types of Crohn’s disease
Types of Crohn’s disease include:
- Ileocolitis: Inflammation of the small intestine and part of the large intestine or colon. It is the common type of Crohn’s disease.
- Ileitis: Swelling and pain develop in the small intestine (ileum).
- Gastroduodenal: The inflammation and irritation affect the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine (duodenum).
- Jejunoileitis: The areas of inflammation in the patchy develop in the upper part of the small intestine (called the jejunum).
Causes of Crohn’s disease
No one knows the exact cause of Crohn’s disease. The cause is often attributed to several factors:
- Problem with the immune system, which attacks healthy bacteria in the gut.
- A previous infection that triggered an abnormal immune system response.
- Environmental factors
Risk factors for Crohn’s disease
There are certain factors that increase the risk of Crohn’s disease:
- Family history of the disease. Having parents, children, or siblings with this disease puts you at greater risk.
- Smoking: This doubles the risk of Crohn’s disease
- Some medications, such as antibiotics, birth control pills, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen. These slightly increase the chance of developing Crohn’s.
- A high-fat diet may slightly increase your risk for Crohn’s disease.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease
The symptoms of each person may vary. There may be symptoms:
- Stomach or abdominal pain, often in the below right area
- Diarrhea, sometimes bloody
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Joint pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- A hole or tear in the anus (anal fissure)
You may not have symptoms for a long time, even years. It’s called being in relief. There is no way of knowing when relief will occur or when your symptoms will return.
Diagnosis of Crohn’s disease
Because Crohn’s disease has symptoms similar to other conditions, there is no single test that can accurately diagnose Crohn’s disease.
This disease can be suspected in a person with abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss over a period of weeks or months (it is important to arrive at one or the other diagnosis because the two conditions are treated differently).
Low blood count (which can be caused by anemia, rectal bleeding), blood tests may be done to measure the severity of inflammation and to check for vitamin or mineral deficiencies. A bowel movement pattern (defecation pattern) may be needed to test the blood and rule out the cause of the infection to rule out infection.
Most people will need to examine some part of their intestine by checking directly or indirectly. The direct examination is performed using a small flexible tube (endoscope) with a small fiber-optic camera at the tip, which is inserted through the anus (this procedure is called colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy) or orally (gastroscopy).
The doctor can view sections of the digestive system on a television screen and see signs of inflammation that indicate the disease. Small samples (biopsies) of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract can be taken for analysis in the laboratory.
Treatment for Crohn’s disease
Treatment of Crohn’s disease generally involves a variety of medications.
Some of these medications are intended to prevent your disease flare-up, periods when your symptoms return or get worse. Others may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and treat symptoms when inflammation occurs.
Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat symptoms or problems caused by a bacterial infection.
For most people with this disease, medication alone may not be enough and surgery may be necessary.
Surgical treatments may include removing the diseased area of the intestine, opening a narrow or obstructed area, or removing the entire colon.
Most surgical treatments allow people with this disease to live without symptoms for many years.
Alternative therapies can also help reduce symptoms and maintain relief. Research shows that medications like probiotics can reduce the duration of inflammation.
Again, smoking and eating too little fiber increase the risk of disease. So if you smoke, quit. Also, try to eat at least 24 grams of fiber per day. Some research has found that this reduces your risk of complete Crohn’s disease by up to 40 percent. In case, high-fiber diets are linked with a wide range of disease-fighting benefits.
Otherwise, you can’t do much to protect yourself from the disease. The root causes of the disease are not well understood and can involve a combination of different genetic, biological, and environmental factors.
Over time, the inflammation can damage sections of the digestive system, resulting in a narrowing (hardening) of the intestine or a developing canal between the end of the intestine and the skin near the anus or vagina (fistula). These problems usually require surgical treatment.
Departments to consult for this condition
- Department of Gastroenterology