Inflammatory Bowel (Crohn's) Disease
What is Inflammatory Bowel (Crohn's) Disease?
Crohn's disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It usually affects the intestines, but may occur anywhere from the mouth to the end of the rectum (anus). Ulcerative colitis is a related condition.
The term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) covers a group of disorders in which the intestines become inflamed (red and swollen), probably as a result of an immune reaction of the body against its own intestinal tissue.
Two major types of IBD are described - ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. As the name suggests, ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon (large intestine). Although Crohn’s disease can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus, it most commonly affects the small intestine and/or the colon.
Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease usually run a waxing and waning course in the intensity and severity of illness. When there is severe inflammation, the disease is considered to be in an active stage, and the person experiences a flare-up of the condition. When the degree of inflammation is less (or absent), the person usually is without symptoms, and the disease is considered to be in remission.
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Causes of Crohn’s disease
The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown. It is a condition that occurs when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue (autoimmune disorder).
People with Crohn’s disease have ongoing (chronic) inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). Crohn’s disease may involve the small intestine, the large intestine, the rectum, or the mouth. The inflammation causes the intestinal wall to become thick.
The following seem to play a role in Crohn’s disease:
Crohn’s disease may occur at any age. It usually occurs in people between ages 15 - 35.
Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Symptoms depend on what part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and can come and go with periods of flare-ups.
The main symptoms of Crohn’s disease are:
Other symptoms may include:
Treatments for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
There is currently no cure for ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Treatment aims to relieve symptoms and prevent them from returning.
Mild ulcerative colitis may not need treatment as symptoms can clear up after a few days.
Medications used to treat ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease may include:
An estimated 20% of people with ulcerative colitis have severe symptoms that often don’t respond to medication. In these cases, it may be necessary to surgically remove an inflamed section of the digestive system. Around 60-75% of people with Crohn’s disease will require surgery to repair damage to their digestive system and treat complications of the condition.
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