Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease which, as the name would suggest, causes inflammation on the human digestive tract. Crohn’s disease is also referred to as the gastrointestinal tract infection (GI), enteritis, or ileitis. While the condition can affect any part of your gastrointestinal tract i.e. from the mouth all the way down to the anus, it tends to affect the lower part of your small intestine, otherwise referred to as the ileum.
Crohn’s disease is characterized by inflammation and swelling, which goes deep inside the lining of the body organs affected. Note that the symptoms of this disease are more or less like that of other intestinal disorders e.g. ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome, hence can be very hard to diagnose. While ulcerative colitis is characterized by the formation of ulcers and inflammation in the top layer of the large intestine lining, as for GI, all the layers of the large intestine could be affected.
Crohn’s disease affects both men and women of all ages, but tends to be common among people between the ages of 20 and 30. Further, people of Jewish heritage tend to be more vulnerable to the disease while African Americans have a reduced risk of getting the disease. The genetic composition of a person is a major predisposing factors since in most cases that have already been diagnosed, 20 per cent of the people suffering from it were found to have a close blood relative down the line who had some type of inflammatory bowel disease.
The real cause of crown’s disease is yet to be known. However, there are some theories that exist in regards to the occurrence of the disease. One of the most popular theories about the occurrence of Crohn’s disease is that the immune system is made of cells and various proteins meant to protect someone from getting an infection. However, there are some people whose immune system reacts abnormally such that it mistakes food, bacteria, and other substances as foreign substances. As a result, the immune system will attack these foreign substances, in a process in which the white blood cells will pile up in the lining of the intestines, thus leading to a chronic inflammation that will eventually cause ulcerations in the affected region and some bowel injury.
Experts are however yet to discover if the aberration in the functioning of the human immune system in people who have this disease is a cause, or a consequence of the disease. According to researchers, the inflammation reported in people suffering from Crohn’s disease is as a result of several factors including the genetic composition of the patient, the environment, and more importantly the immune system of the patient.
Foreign substances, scientifically referred to as antigens, are widely available in the environment. Perhaps a cause for inflammation could be the body’s reaction to these antigens; also, the antigens could be responsible for inflammation. After extensive research, scientists have come to discover that there are extremely high levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a protein manufactured by the immune system in people suffering from Crohn’s disease.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease
Note that the severity of Crohn’s disease symptoms will vary from one person to another.
- Abdominal pain mostly in the lower right region
- Weight loss
- Rectal bleeding, which could be very severe to cause anemia
- Skin problems
- And fever
- Children suffering from this disease could suffer from stunted growth.
Diagnosing Crohn’s disease
Various tests and a thorough and detailed physical examination could be needed to diagnose this disease. Your doctor could conduct a blood test to check signs of anemia, which could be an indication of intestinal bleeding. The blood test could also unearth a high count of white blood cells, which could be a sign of inflammation elsewhere in the body. A stool sample test could indicate an infection or bleeding in the intestines.
Manifestation of the disease
- Crohn’s disease could block the intestines, which is as a result of the thickening of intestinal walls with scar tissue and swelling, and narrowing the passage.
- The disease could also cause ulcers or sores that will tunnel not only on the areas affected but also on the surrounding tissues such as the vagina, the bladder, or even the surrounding skin. The most commonly affected areas include the rectum and the anus
Treatment of Crohn’s Disease
Treatment for Crohn’s disease could be through prescription medication, use of nutritional supplements, through surgery or a combination of all the three. The main goal behind treating Crohn’s disease is to correct any possible nutritional deficiencies that could have resulted into the disease, curb inflammation, and relieve symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and rectal bleeding. At the moment though, there is no specific cure for the disease, treatment is only geared towards curbing its recurrence and mitigating the symptoms.