Crohn’s disease is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the digestive tract or gut. The inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease can lead to severe diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue, malnutrition and weight loss. It is also known as enteritis or ileitis.
Crohn's disease is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) out of the two main forms. The other form is known as Ulcerative Colitis.
The accurate cause of Crohn's disease remains unknown even today. Formerly, stress and diet were made accountable, but now it is known that these factors aggravate it but are not responsible for causing Crohn's disease. Factors such as heredity and an abnormal reaction in the immune system play a role in the development of this disease.
A bacterium or virus may also play a role in its development. For instance, E. coli bacteria has been associated with Crohn's disease. Smoking can be another risk factor.
Crohn’s Disease is known to be a very individual condition. It can effect any part of the gut, starting from the mouth and down to the anus. In the most common cases, however, the ileum (the lower part of the small intestine) or colon (part of the large intestine) is majorly affected.
Its symptoms may vary from person to person, and depend on the location of the disease in the gut. Crohn’s disease develops gradually, but sometimes it comes suddenly, without any warning. Symptoms exhibited change over time, with intervals of good health when your body shows no symptoms (remission) and periods of bad health when your symptoms are more vigorous (‘flare-ups’ or relapses).
Some of the major symptoms of Crohn’s disease when it is active are:
Patients suffering from severe Crohn's disease also may experience:
There is no specific diagnostic test known for Crohn’s disease. Patients with fever, abdominal pain and tenderness, diarrhoea with blood, and anal diseases such as ulcers are sometimes diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Elevated white blood cell counts and sedimentation rates are mostly demonstrated in laboratory blood tests. Both of which suggest infection or inflammation in the digestive tract. Other blood tests may reveal low blood proteins, low red blood cell counts (anaemia), and low body minerals, reflecting the loss of these minerals due to chronic diarrhoea.
Although many effective medications are available in the market to control the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, yet there is no cure developed for it. Surgery can extensively improve the quality of life in certain individuals, but the reappearance of this disease after surgery is familiar to many. A better insight into the role of environmental factors and genetics in causing this disease can help in improved treatments and prevention.
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