We know: All About Crohn's Disease
What is Crohn's disease?
Crohn's disease causes inflammation in the lower part of the small intestine, but it can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. The inflammation extends deep into the lining of the affected organ. The inflammation can cause pain and can make the intestines empty frequently, resulting in diarrhea.
Crohn's disease may also be called ileitis or enteritis. It affects men and women equally and seems to run in some families.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease are abdominal pain, often in the lower right area, and diarrhea. Rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fever may also occur. Bleeding may be serious and persistent, leading to anemia. Children with Crohn's disease may suffer delayed development and stunted growth.
What causes Crohn's disease?
The most popular theory is that the body's immune system reacts to a virus or a bacterium by causing ongoing inflammation in the intestine.
People with Crohn's disease tend to have abnormalities of the immune system, but doctors do not know whether these abnormalities are a cause or result of the disease. Crohn's disease is not caused by emotional distress.
What are the complications of Crohn's disease?
The most common complication is blockage of the intestine. Blockage occurs because the disease tends to thicken the intestinal wall with swelling and scar tissue, narrowing the passage.
Crohn's disease may also cause sores, or ulcers, that tunnel through the affected area into surrounding tissues such as the bladder, vagina, or skin. The areas around the anus and rectum are often involved.
What is the treatment for Crohn's disease?
Treatment for Crohn's disease depends on the location and severity of disease, complications, and response to previous treatment. The goals of treatment are to control inflammation, correct nutritional deficiencies, and relieve symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding.
Treatment may include drugs, nutrition supplements, surgery, or a combination of these options. At this time, treatment can help control the disease, but there is no cure.
What are some of the drug treatments?
Most people are first treated with drugs containing mesalamine, a substance that helps control inflammation. Sulfasalazine is the most commonly used of these drugs. Patients who do not benefit from it or who cannot tolerate it may be put on other mesalamine-containing drugs, generally known as 5-ASA agents, such as Asacol, Dipentum, or Pentasa.
Some patients take corticosteroids to control inflammation.
Drugs that suppress the immune system are also used to treat Crohn's disease.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the drug infliximab (brand name, Remicade) for the treatment of moderate to severe Crohn's disease that does not respond to standard therapies.