About Crohn’s disease
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract.
Unlike ulcerative colitis which is the other main form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s most commonly affects the end of the small intestine (known as the ileum) and the beginning of the large intestine (the colon), but it may affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from the mouth to the anus. Ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon, also called the large intestine.
Ulcerative colitis generally only affects the inner lining of the intestine (the mucosa). Crohn’s disease on the other hand can eventually affect all the different layers of the intestine. In addition, Crohn’s can involve different segments of the intestine at the same time. The segments of the intestine between the affected areas may appear normal.
Symptoms will vary from patient to patient. The most common symptoms are abdominal pain and cramp, especially on the right lower side, persistent diarrhoea and weight loss.
People with Crohn’s disease may also experience
- Rectal bleeding
- Urgent need to move bowels
- Sensation of incomplete evacuation
- Constipation (can lead to bowel obstruction)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight Loss
- Night sweats
- Loss of normal menstrual cycle
Our diet or even just stress may aggravate Crohn’s disease, but they do not cause it.
The exact cause is not known but researchers believe it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Inflammation is our body’s natural way of getting rid of damaged tissue and foreign invaders such as microbes. Our body needs this mechanism in order to survive. Without inflammation we wouldn’t be able to stop infection or heal wounds. In healthy people, the harmless bacteria in the intestines are protected from attack from these foreign invaders. In people with Crohn’s disease, these microbes and other bacteria are mistaken for harmful invaders and the immune system kicks in and the intestine becomes inflamed. However, the inflammation does not subside as it should. Rather, the inflammation becomes chronic leading to ulcer formation and eventually bleeding.
It is estimated that there are at least 115,000 people with Crohn’s disease in the UK.
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