Crohn’s Disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the intestines and other parts of the gastrointestinal system. Although it normally attacks the lower small intestine, Crohn’s disease also affects the anus, rectum, large intestine, small intestine, stomach, esophagus and even the mouth.
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
The primary symptoms of Crohn’s disease are pain in the abdomen, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool and weight loss. Some patients with Crohn’s disease also suffer from skin irritation, inflammation of the eye, and joint pain or arthritis.
If you have Crohn’s disease, you may have active periods with quite a few symptoms and then periods of remission, when symptoms seem non-existent or diminish. This cause of this shift is not known, but many with Crohn’s disease can lead productive lives after being on a treatment plan.
Statistics on Crohn's Disease
Approximately half a million individuals in the United States have Crohn’s disease, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Men and women tend to be affected equally by inflammatory bowel disease and affects a variety of age groups. Approximately 10 percent of those with Crohn’s disease are under 18 years of age.
Causes and the Autoimmune System
Despite years of research, the exact cause of Crohn’s disease is not known, which limits the ability to treat the disease. In Crohn’s disease, the immune system attacks the gastrointestinal system. Heredity plays a role, as well. The overactive immune system in Crohn’s disease attacks good bacteria and attempts to fight them off, causing white blood cells to gather in an area. This pool of white blood cells results in the inflammation.
Genetics and Ethnicity
Crohn’s disease tends to run in families, so genetics is believed to play a role in the susceptibility of developing such a disease. Ethnicity may also play a role in being at risk for Crohn’s disease, as those of European descent are four to five times more likely than others to have inflammatory bowel disease at some point in their lifetime.
As of 2009, there are no medications for remission or prevention for relapse, and it is difficult to assess who is at risk for developing Crohn’s disease. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, although there are methods available to relieve some of the symptoms.
Treatment often involves medication, changes in diet, supplements and sometimes surgery. Medications that are often used to treat symptoms of Crohn’s disease include anti-inflammatory medication or steroids to reduce inflammation, immune suppressors to curb the immune response to bacteria, antibiotics to prevent infection, anti-diarrheal and fluid replacements, which help to prevent dehydration.
According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, about 75 percent of those who have Crohn’s disease will need surgery at some point to help manage the complications and reduce symptoms.