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Definition of Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the intestines. This disease is a repetitive disorder that continues for long periods of time. It results in inflammation of the digestive tract. The Crohn's disease can affect any area of the gastrointestinal tract, which means any area from the mouth to the anus; however, it mostly affects the lower part of the small intestine, known as ileum and causes ulcerations there. The inflammation can reach deep into the affected organ causing pain, while also making the intestines empty frequently, resulting in diarrhea.

 

The precise cause of Crohn's disease is not known. The disease occurs when the immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn's disease is considered an autoimmune disease. This autoimmune activity produces inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, and therefore Crohn's disease is classified as an inflammatory bowel disease. Crohn's disease can run in families. Your chances of getting it are higher if a close family member has it. People of Eastern European Jewish family background may have a higher chance of getting Crohn's disease. Smoking also puts you at a higher risk for the disease.

Symptoms of Crohn's Diseases

General symptoms of the Crohn's Disease are:

Regular diarrhea or very frequent bowel movements that is loose and watery in nature, Rectal bleeding, cramping abdominal pain and fever are some other symptoms. However, some of these symptoms might vary from person to person and may change at times. Fatigue, loss of appetite and resultant weight loss are other associated symptoms.

At times some patients develop cuts in the lining of the anus, leading to bleeding and pain, during bowels. Since Crohn's disease is chronic, its symptoms might range from mild to severe. There may be periods where the disease becomes over active, while at other times normal life isn't affected.

Infections, hormonal changes, smoking, and stress can cause your symptoms to flare up. You may have only mild symptoms or go for long periods of time without any symptoms. A few people have ongoing, severe symptoms.

Types of Crohn's Diseases

There are basically five types of Crohn's disease, these are:

Ileocolitis: Ileocolitis is the most common type of Crohn's disease. It affects the ileum (the lowest part of the small intestine) and the colon (the large intestine). Often, the diseased area of the colon is continuous with the diseased ileum, and therefore involves the ileocecal valve between the ileum and the colon. In some cases, however, areas of the colon not contiguous with the ileum are involved. Symptoms of ileocolitis are essentially the same as those present in ileitis. Weight loss is also common.

Ileitis: This type of the Crohn's disease affects the ileum primarily. Some of the complications in this type may include fistulas or inflammation in right lower quadrant of the stomach. Ileitis affects the ileum (the lowest, or last, part of the small intestine). Symptoms include diarrhea and cramping or pain in the right lower quadrant and periumbilical (around the bellybutton) area, especially after meals. Malabsorption of vitamin B12 can lead to tingling in the fingers or toes (peripheral neuropathy). Folate deficiency can hinder the development of red blood cells, putting the patient at higher risk of developing anemia. Fistulas can develop, as can inflammatory masses.

Gastroduodenal Crohn's disease: This type of Crohn's disease affects the stomach and part of the small intestine. Gastroduodenal Crohn's disease, which affects the stomach and the duodenum (the highest, or beginning, portion of the small intestine), is often misdiagnosed as an ulcer. The correct diagnosis frequently is not made until various ulcer treatments have failed, or until Crohn's disease is identified farther down the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms of gastroduodenal CD include loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, pain in the upper middle of the abdomen, and vomiting.

Jejunoileitis: In this type of Crohn's disease inflammation is caused in bits of areas around the upper half of the small intestine. Jejunoileitis is Crohn's disease of the jejunum (the longest portion of the small intestine), which is located between the duodenum and the ileum. Symptoms include mild to intense abdominal pain and cramps after meals, diarrhea, and malnutrition caused by malabsorption of nutrients. (The majority of nutrients are absorbed in the jejunum.) Fistulas (abnormal openings in the intestinal tract) may form. These can link a diseased area of the small intestine to another area of the intestine or another organ, such as the bladder. Fistulas may increase the risk of developing infections outside of the GI tract.

Crohn's (granulomatous) colitis: This type of a Crohn's disease affects only the colon area. Joint pains and skin lesions are seen in this type of Crohn's disease. It is distinguished from ulcerative colitis in two ways. First, there are often areas of healthy tissue between areas of diseased tissue; ulcerative colitis is always continuous. Second, while ulcerative colitis always affects the rectum and areas of the colon beyond the rectum, Crohn's colitis can spare the rectum, appearing only in the colon.


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