Crohn's Disease

What Is It?

Crohn's disease, also known as regional ileitis, can affect the small intestine, large intestine, anus, and mouth, causing a variety of symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. People with Crohn's Disease also experience rashes, arthritis, and swollen eyes.

The condition is an inflammatory bowel disease, and while the exact cause of the condition is unknown, it is believed that the body's immune system provides some explanation. Normally, the body's immune system fights foreign cells. With Crohn's patients, the body cannot distinguish healthy cells from invader cells. The result is an autoimmune condition that causes swelling in multiple places in the digestive tract.

Even though there is no surgical or pharmaceutical cure for Crohn's disease, a variety of treatment options are available to keep symptoms under control. Treatment plans will vary from patient to patient, and doctors may need to explore several options before choosing a particular regimen.

Your diet and lifestyle may also play a part in triggering your Crohn's disease. Drinking more water and quitting smoking may help you keep your symptoms under control.

The disease was classified nearly eighty years ago by several American doctors, including gastroenterologist Burrill Bernard Crohn. Previously, little was known about the disease.

Types

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. The condition can cause problems in the mouth and impact other parts of the body including the esophagus, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum.

Experts will categorize the disease in one of several ways: by symptoms, by affected area, and by the disease's behavior. There are three classifications and five different types of Crohn's disease.

Symptoms & Warning Signs

Many Crohn's patients experience symptoms for months or years before doctors are able to provide an official diagnosis. Primary symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, exhaustion, and chronic diarrhea-all symptoms that result from a variety of conditions. Crohn's patients might also experience gas and bloating, blood clotting problems, constipation, swollen eyes, internal bleeding, arthritis, kidney stones, liver disease, appetite loss, nausea, pain when defecating, rectal bleeding, blood in stools, rashes, inflamed gums, and drastic weight loss. Fistulas, abnormal connections between organs are another symptom and result in pus, mucus, and stool drainage.

Crohn's disease patients will experience periods of flare-ups and periods of remission. Most people will develop the condition as young adults between the ages of 15 and 30.

Crohn's disease may also cause problems in other parts of the body. A number of patients with Crohn's disease will also develop joint disorders, gangrene, and neurological problems that include seizures, strokes, myopathy, peripheral neuropathy, and headaches.

Causes & Risk Factors

Although the exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, the condition is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. With most people, the immune system attacks foreign cells that invade the body. With patients who have autoimmune disorders, the body cannot distinguish between its own cells and invader cells.

It is believed that Crohn's disease has both a genetic and environmental link. Your family's medical history provides an indicator of whether you are at risk. Smokers are also a high risk group for the disease. Both men and women are equally at risk. All people with Crohn's disease are at risk for cancer, infection, and malnutrition. Crohn's patients might also have a genetic abnormality in their immune system.

Prevention & Treatment

Crohn's disease has no cure, and no treatments are available to extend periods of remission. Experts believe that a combination of medication, lifestyle adjustments, and surgery can help control the disease. It is possible for patients to live a normal life.

Antibiotics, steroids and anti-inflammatory medications are frequently prescribed to treat Crohn's disease. Diet and hydration can also help relieve symptoms.

Crohn's patients should monitor their dietary and fluid intake to keep track of whether certain foods or drinks are causing flare-ups. Knowing what causes problems can help people keep their symptoms under control.

Tests & Diagnosis

Crohn's disease is difficult to diagnose, and for this reason, patients are frequently misdiagnosed with other conditions that cause similar symptoms. The most effective test used for causing Crohn's disease is a colonoscopy, which involves a doctor examining the colon and small bowel with a camera. During the colonoscopy, the doctor will take a biopsy for laboratory tests. The majority of Crohn's disease cases are diagnosed with a colonoscopy.

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