Crohn’s disease, named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn in 1932, is a class of bowel disease that creates chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
We do not yet know the exact cause of Crohn’s disease but there are certain risk factors that make it more likely to develop. It is possible that Crohn's is hereditary and passed down in your genes from another member of your family. Researchers are exploring the idea that it may be an autoimmune disorder (your body sees its own tissues as a foreign invaders and attacks) creating inflammation. It is possible that the body may be attacking the good bacteria living in the digestive tract as well.
Crohn’s disease can affect anyone, but those most at risk are under the age of 30 with a family history. Studies indicate that those of Jewish decent are slightly more at risk for developing the disease. Smoking is also a risk factor as it is for so many kinds of diseases. The environment may also play a role. For example, industrialized countries tend to have diets, stress levels, and way of life conducive of the development of Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease affects men and women equally.
Symptoms depend on how far the condition has advanced and may vary from person to person but most often include:
- Bloody stool and rectal bleeding
- Abdominal cramping
- Decreased appetite
- Urgent bowel movements
Typically, conservative measures are the first course of action. Diet modification and lifestyle changes, including exercise, are helpful at minimizing symptoms. Some medications may also support management of the condition. One of the specific complications of Crohn’s is the development of scar tissue in the abdomen which causes constriction and can lead to an eventual blockage. If this occurs, surgery may be necessary to remove the affected portion of the intestine and bowel. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, up to 75% of people suffering from Crohn’s disease end up needing surgical intervention at some point.
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