Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract, starts at the mouth and ends all the way down in the anus. It is most common in the lower part of the small intestine, that is why it is categorized as an inflammatory bowel disease, because it generally causes swelling in the intestine that it has infected. This disease is often times hard to diagnose, mainly because it shares so many common symptoms with other intestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. The difference is that Crohn’s disease may involve all the layers of the intestinal tract, and normal bowel still presents itself in between diseased bowel movements.
Crohn's disease symptoms
There are many symptoms of Crohn’s disease. These may be detected through a thorough physical exam, in order to properly diagnose it. The first thing doctors look for is anemia, which is a condition where there is a deficiency of red blood cells. Anemia could indicate bleeding in the intestines. Inversely, if there is a high white blood cell count, this could also be a symptom because this indicates that there is an inflammation somewhere in the body.
External manifestations and symptoms of Crohn’s disease may be the following:
- Diarrhea – the inflammation in the intestine causes the cells around the inflamed area to secrete more salt and water than necessary. The colon is then not able to absorb all of it, resulting in excessive fluidity in one’s stool.
- Abdominal pain and cramping – this is because portions of your bowel swell due to the inflammation, making the movement of food through your digestive tract more labored, resulting in the pain.
- Blood in the stool – because the tissue is inflamed and the food that is going through your digestive tract is labored, this may cause the tissue to bleed, and eventually be excreted through your stool.
- Depleted appetite and weight loss – this is all because of both the difficulty of digestion and the abdominal pain, thus resulting in unhealthy weight loss.
- There are also other external manifestations, such as fever, fatigue, arthritis, eye inflammation, skin disorders, and in children, a delay in growth and sexual development.
Causes of Crohn’s disease
There are no proven causes of Crohn’s disease, but there are several helpful theories. One of the more popular theories is that it is caused by an abnormality in the immune system. The immune system mistakes things such as bacteria, food, and other ingested substance to be foreign and potentially dangerous, hence the immune system then goes into self-defense mode and ends up attacking these substances. The white blood cells accumulate in the lining of the small intestine, which is what causes the inflammation. While this may be generally accurate, the technicalities are still under question. Scientists do not know if the immune system reacts like this as a result or cause of the disease. They are also taking into account genetics and a protein produced by the immune system called tumor necrosis as possible causes or effects of Crohn’s disease.
Crohn's disease treatment
Treatment for Crohn’s disease will include a combination of some, if not all, of the following: medicated drugs, nutrition supplements, or surgery. Doctors aim to control the inflammation through these treatments, as well as to correct the nutritional deficiencies caused about by the weight loss, and to relieve the symptoms, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea.
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