The disease is named after Dr. Burril B. Crohn who first described it in 1932 together with Dr. Leon Ginzburg and Dr. Gordon. This disease is one of a group of conditions called Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). It is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract(Crohn’s Disease).
Despite being grouped with inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s disease is not the same thing as ulcerative colitis, which is also an IBD. These two illnesses have similar symptoms, however, they affect different areas in the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s usually affects the end of the ileum and the beginning of the colon, it may however affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Limited to the large intestine also called the colon, is the ulcerative colitis”Two main types of IBD are Crohn’s Diseaseand Ulcerative Colitis” (Crohn’s Disease).
Causes of Crohn’s Disease
The inflammation caused by Crohn’s Disease is thought to be related to abnormalities found in the body’s immune system which is composed of cells and proteins that protect the body from foreign bodiesand infections. Usually there is no immune response for food or what is termed as ‘good’ bacteria or other normal bowel components in healthy people. Patients of Crohn’s Disease have an immune system that seems to overreact to substances and bacteria in the intestine(The Patient Education Institute).
White blood cells enter the intestinal lining producing inflammatory toxins that cause ulceration, chronic tissue swelling and injury. The exact cause of this abnormal immune reaction is unknown, however the existence of a specific infectious agent has not been ruled out. There are studies that seem to show a genetic or inherited predisposition to develop Crohn’s Disease. First-degree relatives (sister, brother or parents and their children) of patients with the disease are more likely to develop Crohn’s. To add on the genetic thought, certain chromosomal markers have been found in the DNA of patients with Crohn’s Disease. This disease is not caused by stress as some may think(The Patient Education Institute).
There is evidence suggesting that a bacterium, Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), could infect a susceptible (genetically) subgroup of the population and result in Crohn’s Disease(The Patient Education Institute).
The most common symptoms witnessed in Crohn’s Disease include diarrhea and abdominal pain in the right lower quadrant. A loss of appetite, rectal bleeding accompanied with fever and weight loss could also occur. Persistent bleeding may in turn cause anemia. Being a chronic disease, patients of Crohn’s experience periods where the symptoms are aggravated and periods of where the symptoms are in remission. During periods where the symptoms are active, patients experience joint pain, fatigue and skin problems. Some patients experience symptoms either mildly or very severely. Children with Crohn’s Disease often suffer stunted growth and delayed development(Crohn’s Disease).
When their disease is not active, people with Crohn’s Disease may feel well and even be free of symptoms for substantial time periods. This disease may require that one take medication for long lengths of time and even be admitted. Most people with Crohn’s Disease can still raise families, hold jobs and function successfully in society(Katz, 2010).
Complications Experienced with Crohn’s Disease
This complications develop as a result of the chronic inflammation present in Crohn’s Disease. These usually manifest in severe disease. Blockage or obstruction of the intestine is the most common complication. Obstruction is caused by the stiffening and narrowing of the bowel wall, which result in constipation and poor absorption of nutrients consequently leading to malnutrition. Some patients also develop fissures (tears in the lining of the anus). Inflammation may lead to a tunnel connecting a portion of bowel to the bladder, the skin near the anus or vagina or joining different loops of the bowel. This tunnel is called a fistula(Katz, 2010).
Nutritional complications such as deficiencies of certain proteins, calories and vitamins are common in Crohn’s Disease. Some of the other complications associated with Crohn’s Disease include inflammation of the eyes and mouth, skin problems, arthritis, liver disease and kidney or gall stones. These problems are sometimes resolved with appropriate management for the inflammatory process, but in special cases, require separate treatment(Katz, 2010).
It can be difficult to diagnose Crohn’s Disease because it has symptoms similar to other GI disorders like ulcerative colitis irritable bowel syndrome. For a correct diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, accurate medical history of the patient is required, then a thorough physical examination followed by a series of special investigations. X-rays and Laboratory tests help to exclude other forms of intestinal inflammation. Then, blood tests are used to check for high white blood cell count or anemia which may indicate inflammation.To view the small intestine the patient swallows a chalky solution that contains barium which reveals areas of inflammation and other abnormalities found in the bowel(Crohn’s Disease).
Treatment used often depends on the severity and location of the disease, with regard to any complications and response to previous treatments used. Current treatment strategies are aimed at controlling inflammation, relieving symptoms and correcting nutritional deficiencies. Treatment helps in controlling the disease, but there is no cure(Crohn’s Disease).
Crohn’s Disease is a serious threat to oblivious people and it is clear that more awareness should be created especially in families in which a member has contracted the disease because there is evidence to suggest that the disease can be passed on”Inflammatory bowel diseases affects more than a million Americans” (Katz, 2010).
Crohn’s Disease. Retrieved from http://www.cdd.com.au/pages/disease_info/crohns_disease.html
The Patient Education Institute. Crohn’s Disease.
Katz, J.A. (2010).The Facts about Inflammatory Bowel Diseases