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Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s Disease is a disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. It falls into a category of disorders called inflammatory bowel disease. Crohn’s Disease is considered to be a chronic or ongoing disorder that can affect many different areas of the digestive tract but is most commonly present in the lower part of the small intestine. Crohn’s Disease causes inflammation that extends deep into intestinal lining causing swelling and pain. As a result of the swelling and pain, the bowel may attempt to empty too frequently causing diarrhea.

Because the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease mimic closely those of other intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis, it can be difficult to diagnose. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in the top layer of the lining of the large intestine. Crohn’s Disease may affect all layers of the intestine as well as leaving normal and healthy tissue between sections of diseased bowel.

Statistics show that Crohn’s Disease affects men and women equally and seems to run in some families. The data suggests that about 20 percent of people with Crohn’s Disease have a close family member with some form of inflammatory bowel disease. Also it seems that Crohn’s Disease is not age discriminate but it is more often diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 30.

What causes Crohn's Disease?

The existence of the disorder has been widely acknowledged for many years and several theories exist as to what cause it. But to date, there has been nothing proven that would point to a causation of Crohn’s disease. The most popular theory is that there is an abnormal reaction in the body’s immune system that causes the body to react to normal foods and beneficial bacteria as being foreign or infectious agents, causing the body’s normal infection fighting system to attack these substances, leaving the bowel susceptible to actual infections from harmful agents introduced into the digestive system. During this abnormal process, white blood cells accumulate in the lining of the intestines. This accumulation of white blood cells is believed to cause the inflammation which can lead to tissue ulcerations and bowel tissue damage.

Although it is known that the abnormal reaction of the immune system does take place, it is unclear whether this unusual immune reaction is a cause of, or reaction to Crohn’s Disease. Researchers believe there may be several factors that cause the inflammation seen in Crohn’s Disease. These could possibly be a genetic factor, the person’s immune system and environmental factors. Research would suggest the introduction of these environmental factors into our systems by what ever means may play a big role. The theory suggests that the body’s reaction to the environmental factors are seen as foreign bodies or antigens by the immune system and are acted upon causing the abnormal response that causes the inflammatory process to occur. It has also been suggested that these antigens are directly responsible for the inflammation. Neither theory has been proven to any extent.


What are the symptoms?

Generally, when symptoms first begin to appear, as stated before, they can be mistaken for other types of inflammatory bowel disorders. The most common symptoms of Crohn’s Disease are abdominal pain, often in the lower right area, and diarrhea. Often rectal bleeding will occur. Other symptoms that might accompany the disorder are weight loss, arthritis, skin problems, and fever. Rectal bleeding may be quite serious leading to anemia. Although the symptoms listed are common, they do not encompass all that exist. Symptoms range widely in severity and type from person to person.


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