Crohn’s disease is a bowel disease that causes inflammation of the lining of digestive tract (anywhere from mouth to anus). Symptoms may vary but most commonly include abdominal pain, diarrhea (bloody, in severe cases), fever, fatigue, decreased appetite and weight loss. This can lead to many complications, and those suffering from Crohn’s disease carry higher risk of bowel cancer.
Periods of flare up and remission are characteristic for this disease. Many people experience the symptoms years before they get diagnosed. Even though it is immune related, Crohn’s is not an autoimmune disease. This is a chronic condition and there is no cure, although medications and treatments can be helpful in calming down the symptoms or stopping a flare up from occurring. Medications that are most commonly used include corticosteroid, in order to stop the symptoms, and methotrexate or a thiopurine to prevent relapses. Smokers are strongly advised to quit their habit, because it affects the symptoms of a disease significantly. Even with treatments, around half of people end up needing a surgery in the course of the first ten years with a disease.
The cause is still unknown, but the studies show that it is likely a combination of genetics, environmental and immune factors. People who have siblings with this disease have around 30 times more chances to develop it themselves. It has also spread out more in the developed countries and the urban surroundings. Eastern Europe has the most cases with Crohn’s disease (around 3 people per 1,000 are diagnosed). It usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30 and both males and females are equally affected. Smoking, animal protein intake and stress are all linked to this condition.
Crohn’s disease is often mistaken for ulcerative colitis, because the symptoms are quite similar. However, while the Crohn’s disease can affect any part of gastrointestinal track, ulcerative targets only the colon. Diagnosing Crohn’s can be challenging, but the most effective method is colonoscopy, which is 70% accurate.
Although patients with Crohn’s have only slightly reduced life span in general, a number of different complications can easily end up being fatal, which is why it is important to be cautious and do the appropriate treatments.