Crohn’s Disease

Named after Burrill Bernard Crohn.  Crohn’s is an inflammatory disease of the intestines that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus. It is also known as regional or gastro enteritis. It causes a wide variety of symptoms including lethargy, anemia, abdominal pain, diarrhea(which may be bloody), vomiting, fever and weight loss. It is an autoimmune condition that may last several years. It is similar to Ulcerative Colitis but is not confined to the colon. It usually affects the Ileum and Jejunum areas which develop edema and thicken with deep ulcers. Abscesses and fistulas may appear.  Inflammation can be life threatening if toxemia develops, there is a perforation of the colon or a fistula grows between the bowel and other organs.  Complications that may occur outside of the gastrointestinal tract are skin rashes, arthritis, fatigue, inflammation of the eyes and lack of concentration.

Crohn’s disease is an immune disorder but is not thought to be an autoimmune disease and the the exact problem is unclear. There is evidence of a genetic link to Crohn’s disease but it does have a large environmental component as evidenced by a higher incidence in western industrialized nations. Comparatively it is a rare diease in the developing world. Males and females are equally affected. Smokers are twice as likely to develop Crohn’s disease than nonsmokers. Crohn’s disease affects about 3.2:1000 people. Onset can occur at any age but tends to present initially when people are in their teens and twenties, with another peak incidence in the 50′s-70′s. If it persists for more than a decade it will increase the risk of colon cancer. It can be diagnosed with blood tests, bacteria studies, biopsy, endoscopy or barium X-ray exam. There is no cure. Treatments may include diet changes to exclude dairy or wheat and less than 10% will undergo surgeries to remove the diseased bowel sections. Oddly normal tissue islands often remain in the affected area.

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