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Crohn’s Disease by Mariland Wilson

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Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract.  The most common areas affected are the small intestine and the colon, but it can occur anywhere from the mouth to the rectum.  Crohn’s is a chronic inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract and is not contagious.  Crohn’s disease can be characterized into four subtypes, depending on what area of the body is affected.  Crohn’s colitisis is an inflammation of the colon.  Crohn’s enteritis is an inflammation of the small intestines.  Crohn’s terminal ileitis is an inflammation of the part of the small intestine closest to the colon.  Crohn’s entero-colitis and ileo-colitis describe inflammation that involves both the small intestine and the colon.

There are no known causes of Crohn’s disease, but it is generally believed that genetics, viruses and the environment are some of the causes for the disease.  Crohn’s disease can also be hereditary, but that is not always the case.  These contributing factors cause the immune system to mistakenly attack and destroy healthy body tissues due to the virus or bacteria.  This disease is found more frequently in industrialized nations, northern climates and in those whose diet consists of high-fat foods.  Crohn’s usually shows up between 15-35 years of age, but can occur at any age.  Men and women are equally affected.  This disease is most common in those of European and Jewish descent and is increasing among the African American populations, although it was once thought to be only associated with Caucasians.  Some possible contributing factors are smoking, oral contraceptives, measles-mumps-Rubella vaccines, and zinc deficiencies.

There are a number of symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease that can vary from mild to severe and come on suddenly or gradually.  The main symptoms are abdominal cramping and pain, persistent diarrhea, weight loss, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, ulcers, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, gas, headaches, and vomiting.  Abdominal pain is usually the initial symptom of Crohn’s disease, which is intermittent and makes the abdomen sore to the touch and may cause bloating, nausea and vomiting.  Diarrhea is another common symptom with this disease.  In extreme cases, one might have diarrhea as many as 20 times a day and wake up in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom.  Bloody stool may be seen due to inflamed tissue in the digestive tract bleeding when eating.  Abdominal pain, cramping and diarrhea may cause one to lose their appetite and weight.

Crohn’s disease can cause a number of painful, life threatening complications related to the digestive tract.  The more common are obstructions, fistulas, intestinal bleeding, abscesses, and malnutrition.  Crohn’s disease, along with any complications that develop, increase a person’s risk of developing cancer in the affected areas.

There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, however, the symptoms are sometimes controllable.  Medication, healthy diet, and exercise all help people live with Crohn’s and reduce the chances for flare-ups.  When in remission, people can live close to normal lives.  Women are even capable of having children.  There is a treatment that involves removal of affected tissues that allows the patient to have a normal diet until the symptoms of Crohn’s disease return.  This can give the patient up to several years of relief and normalcy.



WebMD http://www.webmd.com/ibd-crohns-disease/crohns-disease

CCFA http://www.ccfa.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/what-is-crohns-disease

Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/crohns-disease/DS00104

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Medicinenet.com http://www.medicinenet.com/crohns_disease/article.htm

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crohn%27s_disease

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