Crohn’s disease is a type of chronic (slowly progressing, long-term) Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Crohn’s disease causes inflammation (swelling or ulceration) of the gastrointestinal tract, also known as digestive system. Inflammation is body’s defense mechanism for injury or irritation marked by increased regional blood flow. Inflammation may cause swelling, redness and pain.
According to British authorities Crohn’s disease was first mentioned by Dalziel, a Scottish surgeon, in 1913. Whereas the American authorities say it was first described and named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn in 1932 along with his colleagues Dr. Leon Ginzburg and Dr. Gordon D. Oppenheimer.
Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
Cronh’s disease falls under the IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) category and shares similar symptoms of another disease of this category called Ulcerative Colitis. Even though the two illnesses have similar symptoms they affect different parts of the gastrointestinal tract (digestive system).
Ulcerative Colitis specifically affects the colon (large intestine) but Crohn’s disease may affect anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract (digestive system) starting from the mouth to the rectum (anus).
But mostly it effects the ileum (the end of small intestine) and the cecum (the beginning of large intestine) causing inflammation that may penetrate deep into the linings of the intestine (bowel) resulting primarily in ulceration (non-healing lesion on skin or internal surface causing death of the tissues involved) and thickening of the infected intestinal wall.
Although Crohn’s disease is called a chronic disease there might be long periods of good health in between relapses. No cure has been discovered for Crohn’s disease, but long periods of relief can be achieved by medications and surgeries. Crohn’s disease is not infectious.
Crohn’s disease symptoms
Crohn’s disease symptoms include severe abdominal (belly) pain and cramp, rectal tenesmus (pain and involuntary straining to discharge stool from body accompanied by a feeling of incomplete evacuation of bowels), persistent diarrhea sometimes with blood, weight loss and fatigue.
Crohns disease symptoms that may be common with other illnesses in IBD category are: weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, fatigue, night sweats and loss of normal menstrual cycle.
Cause of Crohn’s disease? Who is affected or how common is Crohn’s disease?
In spite of extensive research the cause of Crohn’s disease is yet to be discovered. After significant advances in genetics, researchers now believe that it is caused by body’s immune system attacking harmless bacteria in the GI system causing inflammation.
This inflammation does not subside and becomes chronic, resulting into ulceration, thickening of intestinal walls and eventually leading to all the Crohn’s disease symptoms. Person’s genetic makeup, viruses, bacteria, diet, smoking and stress all are suggested as triggers but no specific trigger has been definitely determined as the cause.
Crohn’s disease can affect people of any age but particularly seen to occur in people between ages 15-35. It runs in families i.e. relatives with the same genetic makeup.
It is more common in developed countries, urban areas, northern climates compared to undeveloped countries, rural areas and southern climates. About 700,000 Americans and 240,000 British are affected by some form of IBD. It is more common in eastern European descendants including Jews.