Gastrointestinal Diseases
Crohn's Disease
 

​Overview:

  • Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation of your digestive tract.
  • The disease can affect any part of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from your mouth to your anus, but it is more commonly found at the end of the small intestine or colon.
  • The cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. It may be due to an abnormal reaction by the body's immune system or genetic factors.  
  • There is no cure for Crohn's disease, but drugs and supplements or surgery can control the symptoms. 
Introduction:
It is a chronic, non-contagious inflammation that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system (from mouth to anus); it affects the intestinal wall and any part of it, although the most common areas are the end of the small intestine or colon.

Other Names:
Crohn's disease - regional enteritis – enteritis.

Causes:
The exact cause of Crohn's disease remains unknown. Previously, diet and stress were suspected, but now doctors know that these factors may aggravate but don't cause Crohn's disease.  A number of factors, such as heredity and a malfunctioning immune system, likely play a role in its development, such as:
  • Heredity: Genetic factors may increase the risk of Crohn's disease.
  • Immune system. It may be caused by a problem with the immune system (the body's defense against infection and disease) causing it to attack the cells in the digestive tract. 
Risk Factors:
  • Age: Crohn's disease can occur at any age. Most people who develop Crohn's disease are diagnosed before they're around 30 years old.
  • Genetics.
  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (painkillers).
  • Pollution. 
Symptoms:
Signs and symptoms of Crohn's disease vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. They usually develop gradually, but sometimes will come on suddenly, without warning. They include:
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Severe diarrhea (sometimes with blood and mucus).
  • Fatigue.
  • Fever.
  • Anemia.
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss.
  • Mouth sores.
  • Delayed growth in children. 
When to See a Doctor: 
  • Abdominal pain and blood in your stool.
  • Ongoing bouts of diarrhea that don't respond to over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
  • Unexplained fever lasting more than a day or two.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
Diagnosis: 
  • Physical examination.
  • Lab tests: Blood and stool tests.
  • Other tests: barium X-ray, CT, MRI.
  • Colonoscopy to take samples of tissue (biopsy). ​

Complications:
  • Abscesses (collections of pus) around the anus and inside the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Gastric ulcer. 
  • Inflammation such as: inflammation of the joints, eyes and skin. 
  • Blood clots (including deep vein thrombosis).
  • Osteoporosis. 
  • Kidney stones and gallbladder.
  • Bowel obstruction.
  • Fistula.
  • Colon cancer.
Treatment:
There is currently no cure for Crohn's disease, but lifestyle changes and the use of certain drugs reduce signs and symptoms and reduce complications that include: 
  • Immunosuppressant drugs.
  • ​Anti-inflammatory drugs such as cortisone.
  • Patient may need surgery; but this does not mean treating the disease, as the benefits of surgery are usually temporary.
Prevention:
So far, there is no way to prevent Crohn's Disease, researches and studies are ongoing. 
Tips for Patients with Crohn's Disease:
  • Ensure regular follow-up with your doctor.
  • Taking medications prescribed by your doctor.
  • Do not stop taking medications when symptoms are over.
  • Adopt healthy diet to prevent the aggravation of symptoms.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. 
  • Exercise regularly. 
  • Quit smoking, which increases the risk of disease episodes. 
  • Reduce anxiety and tension as much as possible.
  • Avoid taking any herbal product without doctor's recommendations to prevent interference with the absorption of prescribed drugs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
  • What is the difference between Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis?
    • The Crohn's may affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, while Ulcerative colitis is limited to the large intestine (colon and rectum).
  • When left untreated, do gastric reflux causes the disease?
    • Crohn's disease is immune and hereditary; however, gastric reflux can exacerbate symptoms if the disease is contracted.
  • What foods to avoid if you have Crohn's Disease?
    • It is recommended to adopt low-fiber diet and to avoid junk and processed food.
  • What is the most vulnerable age group?
    • It may affect both sexes of all ages, the age group most often affected is 15 to 35 years.

Misconception:
  • Crohn's disease can't be controlled.
    • Fact: Incorrect, drugs and other therapeutic interventions, in addition to changing lifestyle can make the patient live a fairly normal life. Some cases are completely cured.
  • Crohn's disease affects the health of women planning to get married
    • Fact: Consult your doctor to check your health, and if certain medications (such as methotrexate) are used to treat the disease, whether for women or men who wish to have children.






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