Crohn's disease is a painful, recurrent, chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the ileum (last part of the small bowel: ileitis and enteritis) or colon. It starts with small, burning ulcers, which slowly lead to highly ulcerated walls of bowel. The walls of the bowel start thickening which results in narrowing of the bowel making it difficult for the bowel to perform its functions properly.
People of all ages and sexes can develop this disorder. A study shows that it is basically widespread in people with fair complexion. Even though it does not differentiate between children, teens, or old people, it is evident that most of the patients of this disease are people belonging to the young generation.
Causes of Crohn's disease
Although the origin of this disease is not known, many doctors relate it with the bacteria that grow in the gut. Not all the bacteria seem to be responsible for this, but a few inflammation-causing ones are thought to be among the main players. It is also thought to be hereditary, as people in the same family are found to be suffering from this irritating disease. Few studies also show that it is caused due to the internal problems of the body, and our immune system plays an important role in inducing the inflammatory condition of the colon, intestines, small bowel etc.
Types of Crohn's disease
If not taken care in its early stages, this disease may spread to other parts of the bowel. The inflammation can grow and spread out in the areas, like duodenum or the stomach. It may lead to liver and kidney damage, and it is also associated with spondylitis (generally, ankylosing spondylitis). As the disease is mainly characterized by inflammatory ulcers, it also can cause diseases related to the skin and all openings of the body, like eyes, anus, vagina etc. It can be classified in the following types:
- Crohn's ileitis
- Crohn's colitis (also known as colonic Crohn's disease)
- Ileocolic Crohn's disease
- Peri-anal Crohn's disease
Diagnosis of Crohn's disease
- Severe, recurrent pain in the infected area of the intestinal tract and the abdomen
- Frequent attacks of diarrhoea that contains blood
- Slow physical growth (in children)
- Mental frustration (due to regular hospitalization)
- Weight loss (due to ongoing fatigue and drainage of energy from the body)
- Formulation of fistula (draining sinus tract) in various parts of body, like skin, anal area, vaginal area etc.
- Urinary infections (due to fistula)
- Inflammation in the affected part of body
- Bleeding of the ulcers in the intestinal tract (in rare cases)
- Although there are many tests available, a single one alone cannot completely confirm to the existence of this condition. This makes it necessary for the doctors to rely on the integrated results of several tests.
- As already mentioned above, it has been found that the disease exhibits hereditary linkage, therefore, information about your health and your family history can surely help your doctor in coming to a conclusion.
- A blood test may be conducted in order to check various blood related problems such as anaemia, deficiency of various important vitamins and minerals, etc.
- Colonoscopy may be performed for direct visualization of the colon and the terminal ileum from the intestinal tract. A sample of the affected tissue may be removed for biopsy.
- CT and MRI scans may be suggested to understand the overall condition, and the complications that may occur due to the spread of disease from the infected area to the surrounding area.
- Barium-Follow Through test may be performed to complement the colonoscopy, by allowing visualization of the small intestinal area.
- Your doctor may also decide to take help of advanced technology in order to insert a capsule shaped micro device with a camera in your intestine to capture real time images of your gastrointestinal tract.
Crohn's disease is very painful and may be incurable. It requires the patient to pay 100% attention towards his/her health, and understand the importance of a healthy and proper diet. After studying your condition, your doctor might suggest you treatments such as medications (anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants, steroids, antibiotics etc.). Surgical intervention for removal of the infected areas may be prescribed in severe cases.