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Crohn's disease

Crohn's disease: Introduction

Crohn's disease is a chronic, ongoing disease of the gastrointestinal tract. It is one type of inflammatory bowel disease. The hallmarks of Crohn's disease are swelling of the gastrointestinal tract, abdominal pain and frequent diarrhea. Crohn's disease can seriously affect a person's ability to participate in normal activities of daily living and can lead to serious complications.

Crohn's disease can affect any area of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. This includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum. Crohn's disease most commonly affects the ileum, the lower portion of the small intestine.

The chronic gastrointestinal inflammation of Crohn's disease also results in a variety of other symptoms, including bloody stools (melena). Serious complications of Crohn's disease include anemia, bowel obstruction, gastrointestinal ulcers and fistulas. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of Crohn's disease.

The exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, but researchers believe it may be due to an abnormal response of the immune to an infection or to food and other substances in the GI tract. Crohn's disease may also have a genetic component, and it can run in families.

Crohn's disease is not caused by eating certain foods, although some foods can irritate the bowel and intensify symptoms in people who already have the disease.

Making a diagnosis of Crohn's disease begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. It may also include doing blood tests and other tests that check for bacteria, viruses, and blood on stool. This includes a complete blood count, which can help reveal if a person has developed anemia.

Making a diagnosis also includes performing special imaging tests to see a picture of the insides of the intestines and look for areas of inflammation. Tests may include an upper GI series. This test takes X-ray pictures of the small intestine after drinking barium, a solution that helps to illuminate abnormalities in the GI tract. CT scan and a variety of tests using video imaging technology may also be done.

One such test is a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy involves passing a small flexible tube fitted with a camera through the anus into the colon to look for areas of inflammation. During this procedure, samples of inflamed tissue are taken to be examined under a microscope to confirm a diagnosis.

A diagnosis of the Crohn's disease may be missed or delayed because symptoms can mimic the symptoms of other conditions. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of Crohn's disease.

Although there is no cure, Crohn's disease is treatable and can often be controlled to effectively reduce symptoms and bring on periods of symptom-free remission. This can be achieved by using a variety of medications, depending on the type and severity of the condition and the individual case. Dietary and lifestyle changes can also be helpful. Surgery may also be needed to control the disease in some cases. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of Crohn's disease. ...more »

Crohn's disease: Crohn's disease is an ongoing disease of the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The hallmarks of Crohn's disease are swelling of the GI tract, abdominal pain, and frequent diarrhea. The swelling and inflammation of Crohn's disease goes deep into the affected part of the GI tract. The condition can affect any area of the GI tract, from the mouth to the anus, including esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum. It most commonly affects the ileum, the lower portion of the small intestine.

Crohn's disease can seriously affect a person's ability to work, attend school, travel or complete other normal activities of daily living. Serious complications of the disease include obstruction of the intestine due to swelling and inflammation, and GI tract sores and ulcers that can become deep enough to create holes into other areas, such as the vagina, bladder, and skin. These holes, called fistulas, can easily become seriously infected.

Poor nutritional status is another potential result of Crohn's disease. This is due to a combination of factors, including a poor appetite and inadequate intake commonly associated with the condition. Poor nutrition can also be due to an inadequate absorption of nutrients by the intestine due to the inflammation, swelling, and diarrhea. This is known as malabsorption.

There may be a familial connection with Crohn's disease. About 20% of people with the condition have blood relatives with Crohn's disease or some other form of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Crohn's disease can occur in any age group, but most often is diagnosed between 20 to30 years of age. Other people with a higher risk of developing the disease in include those of Jewish descent, while African Americans have a decreased risk for the disease. ...more »

Crohn's disease: Animations

Crohn's disease: Broader Related Topics

 

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