Crohn's Disease

What is Crohn's Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal tract. It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease, a disease that causes swelling in the intestines. Most experts believe that Crohn’s disease is caused when the body’s immune system mistakes bacteria, foods and other substances found in the intestines as foreign. The immune response causes white blood cells to accumulate within the walls of the intestines causing inflammation, ulcerations and other complications.



Who is affected?
Crohn’s disease affects as many men as it does women and often runs in families. About a fourth of patients have a close relative with Crohn’s disease or a similar inflammatory bowel disease. A mutation within the gene known as NOD2/CARD 15 limits the body’s ability to recognize bacteria as harmful and is found twice as often in Crohn’s sufferers than most people. Also, it tends to affect whites more so than other ethinicities. For example, American Jews of European descent are five times more likely to develop Crohn's disease or a similar inflammatory bowel disease than the population at large.


Where does it occur?
Crohn's disease affects the whole gastrointestinal tract. It is most commonly found in the intestines and colon but can affect any part of the digestive system from the mouth to the anus.



How does it affect your body?
Crohn’s disease causes persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, rectal bleeding and in some cases anal fissures. Loss of appetite and weight loss are common. Crohn’s can also affect the joints, eyes, skin and liver, and most sufferers complain of fatigue. Also, children affected with Crohn’s disease can have delayed growth and development.


When does it present itself?
Crohn's disease can affect people of all ages, but is most commonly found in people between the age of 20 and 30 years old. A colonoscopy or upper GI series (swallowing barium and then taking x-rays) are the best ways to diagnose Crohn's disease. People in the affected age group should seek diagnosis for any potential symptoms of Crohn's disease.

Other facts:
Crohn's disease is an ongoing illness, which means that there are periods where the patient is healthy and others when the disease "flares up" and causes most of its symptoms. As a result is is necessary for people suffering from Crohn's disease to take medications for long periods. 2/3 of people with Crohn's disease will require surgery at some point in their lives. Sometimes it is necessary to remove part of the intestine or even the entire colon in order to control certain complications. Despite the uncomfortable nature of this diseases complications, people with this disease lead fully productive lives. For some reason Crohn's disease is most common in developed countries, primarily the United States and Europe.


Sources:
Crohn's Disease - Affected Areas
Crohn's Disease - Affected Areas

http://www.ccfa.org/info/about/crohns
http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/crohns/
http://www.medicinenet.com/crohns_disease/article.htm


Picture Courtesy of www.nmh.org