Crohn's Disease

Crohn's Disease

A form of inflammatory bowel disease, more commonly referred to just as IBD, Crohn's disease is a condition that typically affects the intestines. It may, however, occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. The exact cause is unknown, but patients may experience many symptoms as a result of the disease. While there currently is no known cure for Crohn's disease, most patients can manage their symptoms between significant flare-ups.


Cause

While the exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, it is associated with abnormalities in the body's immune system. While the immune system normally works to protect the body against harmful invaders, the immune system in patients with Crohn's disease cannot distinguish between foreign substances and normal body tissue. This leads to an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Individuals who smoke or have Jewish ancestry or a family history of Crohn's disease are more likely to develop the disease.


Types of Crohn’s Disease

There are numerous types of Crohn's disease. The forms vary depending upon the section of the gastrointestinal tract that is affected. Crohn's disease patients may experience symptoms involving the mouth, small intestine, large intestine, or rectum.


Symptoms

The symptoms of Crohn's disease also vary depending on what part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected. Some of the most common symptoms include cramps in the abdominal region, unexplained fatigue, changes in appetite or weight, fever, persistent diarrhea, or pain when passing stool. Patients may also experience constipation, fistulas around the rectum, liver inflammation, rectal bleeding, oral ulcers, joint pain, or swollen gums.


Diagnosis

In addition to a complete physical examination, numerous tests may be necessary to diagnose Crohn's disease or distinguish it from other forms of IBD. Standard tests include colonoscopies, CT scans of the abdomen, endoscopic procedures, upper GI series X-rays, and barium enemas. A stool culture may also be needed to rule out other conditions.


Treatment and Management

Crohn's disease cannot be cured, and there is not a specific course of treatment. Some patients may see improvement by changing their diet and taking vitamin supplements. Doctors may also recommend a prescription or over-the-counter medications to manage symptoms. In limited cases, surgery may be needed to repair severely damaged or diseased intestines. Patients with Crohn's disease are more likely to develop bowel or colon cancer. Other complications may also occur. As a result, it is essential to work with doctors to manage the symptoms of Crohn's disease.

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