Crohn’s Disease

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease belongs to a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s most commonly affects the end of the small bowel (the ileum) and the beginning of the colon, but it may affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from the mouth to the anus. Crohn’s disease can also affect the entire thickness of the bowel wall. Finally, in Crohn’s disease, the inflammation of the intestine can “skip”– leaving normal areas in between patches of diseased intestine.

Who is likely to have Crohn’s?

Crohn’s disease may affect as many as 780,000 Americans. Men and Women are equally likely to be affected, and while the disease can occur at any age, Crohn’s is more prevalent among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35.

Crohn’s tends to run in families, so if you or a close relative have the disease, your family members have a significantly increased chance of developing Crohn’s. Studies have shown that 5% to 20% of affected individuals have a first – degree relative (parents, child, or sibling) with one of the diseases. The risk is greater with Crohn’s disease than ulcerative colitis. The risk is also substantially higher when both parents have IBD. The disease is most common among people of eastern European backgrounds, including Jews of European descent. In recent years, an increasing number of cases have been reported among African American populations.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract. While symptoms vary from patient to patient and some may be more common than others, the tell-tale symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:

Symptoms related to inflammation of the GI tract:

  • Persistent Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Urgent need to move bowels
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation
  • Constipation (can lead to bowel obstruction)

General symptoms that may also be associated with IBD:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of normal menstrual cycle

Even if you think you are showing signs of Crohn’s disease symptoms, only proper testing performed by your doctor can render a diagnosis.

Reference: Crohn’s & Colitis. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/what-is-crohns-disease/