Crohn’s disease is a digestive disorder that may be characterized by abdominal pain and diarrhea, among other symptoms. Classified as an inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's has similarities to other digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. It most often affects people 13 to 30 years old, although it can also occur in older people.
Causes and Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract, but it typically affects the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon. Medical experts believe that Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder. This means that the body’s immune system is attacking bacteria, food particles and other substances in the intestines, leading to inflammation.
Abdominal pain and diarrhea are the most common symptoms, but rectal bleeding, fever and weight loss can also occur. Over time, the buildup of scar tissue from Crohn’s disease can cause a stricture, which is essentially a pinch point in the intestines that may block the healthy flow of food.
Sometimes, Crohn’s disease can be managed through changes in diet paired with the right nutritional supplements. There are also a number of medications that can help treat the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, including steroids, anti-inflammation medications and anti-diarrheal medications. In addition, several medications address the presence of the disease itself, including biological therapies, other immune system suppressors and antibiotics.
Often, surgery is needed at some point to correct problems in the intestines created by Crohn’s disease. In many cases, a combination of all of these treatments is required to manage Crohn’s disease over the long term.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America