What is Crohn’s disease?
It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract. Symptoms can vary depending on what areas of the tract are affected by the disease. Some sufferers have only the last segment of their small intestine affected while others only have inflammation in the colon. Others have multiple parts of their digestive tract affected by the disease.
Unlike the similar condition ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease can spread to deep layers of the bowel tissue and, along with painful and debilitating symptoms, can also cause life-threatening complications. Symptoms commonly develop slowly and can include fever, fatigue, blood in the stool, mouth sores, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and pain or drainage near or around the anus. Crohn’s can also lead to ulcers, bowel obstruction, malnutrition, and colon cancer. Those with Crohn’s can also have periods of time where they have no symptoms. These times are known as remission and can be long-term, especially with effective treatment.
Though the exact cause of this disease is unknown, it’s believed to be some combination of a malfunctioning immune system and heredity. Risk factors include family history, ethnicity (whites, especially of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, are the most prone to it), smoking, and age as most of those who suffer from the disease were diagnosed before the age of 30. While stress, diet, and use of NSAIDs do not cause the disease, they can exacerbate the symptoms and make treatment less effective.