Crohn’s is a condition in which areas of inflammation occur anywhere along the intestinal tract, especially the last segment of the small intestine (ileum) and the colon. It causes inflammation, deep ulcers and scarring to the wall of the intestine and often occurs in patches. Crohn’s disease involves all layers of the intestine. In Crohn’s, normal, healthy sections of bowel may lie between patches of diseased bowel. If you suspect that you have Crohn’s disease, you should seek appropriate medical help without delay. Diagnosis is usually by means of colonoscopy and mucosal biopsy. Initial treatment to reduce flare-ups is administration of steroids such as prednisolone.
Symptoms include chronic diarrhoea, associated ‘right sided’ abdominal pain, severe fatigue, fever, weight loss, and abdominal fullness. Often the first attack seems to be like appendicitis, and many times occurs around the age of twenty. As the disease progresses, intestinal function becomes ever more impaired. Abscesses, fistulas, pockets and canals of infection can affect other organs.
The severity of the symptoms fluctuates unpredictably over time. Patients are likely to experience flare-ups in between intervals of remission or reduced symptoms.
Causes of Crohn’s:
Heredity is associated with Crohn’s, and it is observed to run in families.
Bacterial overgrowth following antibiotic administration can promote symptoms of inflammation, as can a change in intestinal permeability.
Food triggers have been noted, and a restrictive ‘Elemental’ diet has been found to be very effective in some cases.
Autoimmune disorders have been associated with Crohn’s – rheumatoid arthritis,; eczema; asthma; hives.
Crohn’s Disease affects approximately 55,000 people in the UK – that’s about 1 in 1,000. Approximately 3,000 new cases are diagnosed each year; in 15-20% of cases there will be a family history. It is twice as common in smokers as non-smokers. Research shows that the number of people with Crohn’s Disease has been rising steadily, particularly among young people. More recently, numbers have stabilised.
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