What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a long-lasting (chronic) inflammatory disease that primarily affects both the small and large intestines (bowel), but can also involve other parts of the digestive system.
It causes severe redness and swelling of the intestines and ulcers (like a sore). Ulceration can cause a hole in the wall of the bowel. The scarring and the swelling may block the passage of food down the intestines, Most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss. The symptoms may come and go.
How do you get Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease can appear anywhere in the small or large bowel. Its cause is unknown though it appears more frequently in developed countries and also in people who have a family member with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. There is higher risk in people who smoke.
How serious is Crohn’s Disease?
Sufferers can be affected in very different ways: some have mild symptoms even without any treatment while others experience very severe forms of the disease.
- In mild forms, small erosions (wounds) called aphthous ulcers form in the inner surface of the bowel.
- In more serious cases, deeper and larger ulcers can develop, causing scarring and stiffness and possibly narrowing of the bowel or obstruction. Deep ulcers can puncture holes in the bowel wall, which can lead to infection of the abdomen.
How long does Crohn’s Disease last?
Crohn’s disease lasts for many years throughout life. Many patients require surgery at some point and even then it can recur within 10 years. Half of these patients may then require further surgery.
How is Crohn’s Disease treated?
The most commonly used medications in Crohn’s disease are anti-inflammatory drugs, such as salicylate preparations (related to aspirin) and steroids (of the glucocorticosteroid type). For more serious cases, drugs that suppress the immune system (the body’s defence system) are used or even surgery to remove part of the bowel.