This disease has many names. Whether you call it granulomatous enteritis or colitis, regional enteritis, ileitis, or terminal ileitis, or most commonly, Crohn’s disease, they all mean the same thing.
Crohn’s disease is essentially a swelling or inflammation of the intestinal lining, and is referred to a digestive disruption that can occur anywhere between the mouth and the anus. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, and once a patient is diagnosed with it; they will have it until their life’s end. Crohn’s disease is not necessarily always prevalent; there may be periods of remission and inactivity.
Crohn’s disease is usually diagnosed in young adults, and is more common in individuals with a family history of the illness. While it is unclear what causes the illness, researches suspect a type of bacterial infection may bring it about.
What essentially happens in a patient with Crohn’s disease is that for some reason, the body’s immune system works over time to produce immune cells and proteins, which normally fight to protect the body from infections, bacteria and so forth. In the case of Crohn’s disease, the immune system producing these proteins and cells even though there is no infection, which essentially means the body is attacking itself. The over activity of the immune system causes swelling or inflammations and ulcerations to occur in the patients intestines.
In the early stages of Crohn’s disease, erosions begin appearing on the intestinal wall, which will eventually grow into ulcers. Over time, these ulcers will grow and begin to obstruct digested food from passing through the intestines into the colon. If this occurs, the patient will have severe stomach cramps and nausea. Another possibility is that the ulcers grow through the intestinal lining and eventually break into the abdominal cavity. When this occurs, puss will begin to build into a large collection. This is called abdominal abscesses.
A worst-case scenario of what could occur is if the ulcers that break through the lining of the intestines move into another organ. As medicinenet.com explains:
”When the ulcer tunnels into an adjacent organ, a channel (fistula) is formed. The formation of a fistula between the intestine and the bladder (enteric-vesicular fistula) can cause frequent urinary tract infections and the passage of gas and feces during urination. When a fistula develops between the intestine and the skin (enteric-cutaneous fistula), pus and mucous emerge from a small painful opening on the skin of the abdomen. The development of a fistula between the colon and the vagina (colonic-vaginal fistula) causes gas and feces to emerge through the vagina. The presence of a fistula from the intestines to the anus (anal fistula) leads to a discharge of mucous and pus from the fistula’s opening around the anus.“
Some of the symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Blood in the stool
- Weight loss
- Heavy reduction in appetite
- Eye soreness
The treatment of Crohn’s disease usually begins with the prescription of anti-inflammation medication, which minimize the swelling and inflammation that is occurring in the intestines. Immunosuppressant drugs may also be prescribed in order to lower the activity of the immune system. If the ulcer has progressed or if the patient has abscesses, antibiotics may be prescribed to fight the infection. Other medications that may be prescribed depend on what symptoms the patient has (some of these may be against diarrhea or constipation). Because not all nutrients from the food may be absorbed in a patient with Crohn’s disease, the patient may have to take iron supplements, vitamin B12 injections, as well as calcium and other vitamin supplements. A change in diet is also essential in treating Crohn’s disease. If all treatment fails, surgery might be the only remaining option.
The risk factors associated with Crohn’s disease include:
- Genetics (a history of the illness in your family puts you at higher risk)
- Age (most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 30
- Race (Caucasians are the most at risk, however it affects all ethnicities)
Celebrities who suffer from Crohn’s disease include Anastacia and Shannen Doherty.
Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illu_small_intestine_català.png, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CD_colitis.jpg