Crohn’s disease, named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn in 1932, is a class of inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract that can occur anywhere from mouth to anus. However, it usually affects the small intestine and/or large intestine. It is usually able to be treated with medications, however surgery maybe indicated if there is failure of medical management or complications, such as infection or abscess, fistula formation, stricture or perforation of intestines.
Researchers do not currently know the exact cause of Crohn’s disease. They have observed a trend of risk factors that make people more likely to develop the disease, and continue to dedicate research to narrowing down the cause. Crohn’s disease may be hereditary and can develop in a person due to the gene responsible for disease being passed down to them from another family member. Some researchers are exploring the possibility of Crohn’s disease being an immune disorder. When the body wants to get rid of an unwelcome attacker, the body may respond in inflammation. Research suggests that a Crohn’s disease patient’s body may be attacking the helpful microbes instead.
Crohn’s disease can happen to anyone, but the people most at risk are people under 30 years old with a family history of Crohn’s disease. Additionally, studies have shown that people of Jewish descent are also more likely to develop the condition, although the percentage is small. Much like several other diseases, people who smoke cigarettes are prone to developing Crohn’s disease. Research suggests that Crohn’s disease may be linked to the environment. For example, people living in an industrialized county may be more at risk due to the diet, stress, and way of life that is more likely to occur in an industrial environment. Gender is not a known factor and the condition could affect both genders equally.
Symptoms vary from person to person and depend on the advancement of the condition, but may include:
- Rectal bleeding or bloody stool
- Abdominal cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Urgent bowel movements
Often, combination of treatment options including conservative measures like diet and lifestyle changes are the first course of action for management of Crohn’s disease symptoms. There are some medications that may support the management of this condition as well. However, one of the specific symptoms of Crohn’s disease is the development of scar tissue in the abdomen, which causes a narrowing and eventual blockage. If a patient has reached this point, surgery to remove the affected portion of the intestine and bowel may be required. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, up to 75 percent of people suffering from Crohn’s disease will need surgical treatment for some form of complication of Crohn's disease.