Crohn's disease is an uncomfortable inflammation of the digestive tract. It usually attacks the small intestine but can also be found anywhere from the mouth to the anus.
Crohn's is one of the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). The other IBD is ulcerative colitis which causes inflammation and ulcers in the top layer of the lining of the large intestine. Crohn's on the other hand extends deep into the tissue of the affected organ. Up to a million people may suffer from the disease. Neither Crohn's nor ulcerative colitis should be confused with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, which is a non-chronic condition.
Symptoms and diagnosis
the first signals of Crohn's are abdominal pain and diarrhea. The pain is usually below the naval and on the right side. There are other early warning signs:
* weight loss
* loss of appetite
* joint pains
* rectal bleeding
Since many of the symptoms also could point to other problems, a careful physical exam and other tests are needed to diagnose Crohn's. A correct diagnosis can take time. Some of the tests your doctor can use are:
* Blood tests to check for anemia caused by bleeding and to check for high white cell count which could indicate inflammation
* An upper gastrointestinal (GI) series to take a look at the upper intestine with x-rays
* Colonoscopy and/or flexible sigmoidoscopy where a small flexible tube with lights and a camera are inserted into the anus to see into the large intestine
* Capsule endoscopy also known as the camera pill is a swallowable capsule containing a tiny camera that has Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. It takes pictures twice a second as it glides through the small intestine. It is then excreted from the body. It is intended to visualize the inside of the small intestine to detect polyps, cancer or causes of bleeding and anemia.
Causes and complications
Unfortunately, no one is sure of the cause of Crohn's. There does seem to be a hereditary factor. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse states that 20 to 25 percent of patients may have a close relative with IBD. that the most common theory today is that a virus or bacteria cause the inflammation.
The most common complication is a blockage of the intestine. Crohn's can also cause ulcers that become infected and can tunnel deep into the tissue and on to other organs. There can also be nutritional complications with the body unable to absorb nutrients.
there are other complications associated with Crohn's:
* joint inflammation, arthritis
* skin problems
* inflammation of the eyes or mouth
* kidney stones
Sometimes these complications clear up as the Crohn's is treated. They sometimes require separate treatment.