Fact: People with IBD have about a three times greater risk than the general population for developing deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body) or pulmonary embolism (a blood clot causing a sudden blockage in a lung artery)
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. Ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon, also called the large intestine.
Even thought the exact cause isn't known, it is known to involve an interaction between genes, the immune system, and environmental factors. The GI tract normally contains harmless bacteria. This bacteria is helpful in digestion. The immune system is designed to attack and kill foreign invaders that would negatively affect our health including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms. Under normal circumstances, bacteria that is harmless in the intestines isn't attacked. People with IBD (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) aren't so fortunate as these bacteria are mistakenly identified as harmful. So, the immune system mounts an offensive against them. Inflammation is produced when the cells travel out of the blood and to the intestine, which is usually a healthy response. With IBD, unfortunately, that is not the case because the inflamation does not subside which then leads to chronic inflammation, ulceration, and thickening of the intestinal wall. People with inherited genes are more likely to experience this abnormal immune system reaction. Unidentified environmental factors serve as the “trigger” that initiates the harmful immune response in the intestines.
Crohn’s is believed to be an overreaction of the immune system. Crohn’s can affect people of all ages. While most men and women diagnosed with Crohn’s disease are between the ages of 15 and 35, it can affect people of any age.
Males and females appear to be affected equally. In addition, more Caucasians than people from other racial groups develop Crohn’s.
A health care provider diagnoses Crohn's disease with the following:
- medical and family history
- physical exam
- lab tests
- upper GI series
- computerized tomography (CT) scan
- intestinal endoscopy
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
Crohn’s disease symptoms may vary over time and from person to person depending on what part of the gastrointestinal tract is inflamed.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Frequent diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain/Cramping
- Reduced appetite
What are the complications of Crohn's disease?
- bowel obstruction. Crohn's disease can thicken the wall of the intestine. Over time, the thickened areas of the intestine can narrow, which can block the intestine. A partial or complete obstruction, also called a bowel blockage, can block the movement of food or stool through the intestines. A complete bowel obstruction is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention and often surgery.
- fistulas--abnormal passages, or tunnels, between two organs, or between an organ and the outside of the body.
- anal fissures--small tears in the anus that may cause itching, pain, or bleeding. Most anal fissures heal with medical treatment, including ointments, warm baths, and dietary changes.
- ulcers. Inflammation anywhere along the GI tract can lead to ulcers or open sores in a person's mouth, intestines, anus, and perineum—the area between the anus and the sex organs.
- malnutrition--a condition that develops when the body does not get the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function.
Lifestyle Tips to Help You Live Better
- If you have a poor appetite, try eating small, frequent meals, instead of a few big ones
- Record which foods make you feel better and which ones you find irritating
- Symptoms can be better managed through a balanced diet. Also, be sure to watch your portions
- Smoking can make Crohn's disease symptoms worse
- The fatigue you're feeling can be reduced through regular exercise, a healthy diet, and enough sleep
- Avoid alcohol as it can worsen symptoms
Center for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Crohn's And Colitus Foundation of America
Crohn's And Colitus Info
Crohn's & Me
National Digestive Diseases
Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)
United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc.