Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation, or swelling, and irritation of any part of the digestive tract, also called the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from the mouth to the end of the rectum (anus). The part most commonly affected is the end part of the small intestine, called the ileum.
The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. The movement of muscles in the GI tract, along with the release of hormones and enzymes, allows for the digestion of food. In Crohn’s disease, inflammation extends deep into the lining of the affected part of the GI tract. Swelling can cause pain and can make the intestine, also called the bowel, empty frequently, resulting in diarrhea. Chronic, or long-lasting, inflammation may produce scar tissue that builds up inside the intestine to create a stricture. A stricture is a narrowed passageway that can slow the movement of food through the intestine, causing pain or cramps.
The range and severity of Crohn’s symptoms varies depending on which part of the GI tract is affected. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and can come and go with periods of flare-ups.The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease are abdominal pain, often in the lower right area, and diarrhea. Rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fever may also occur. Bleeding may be serious and persistent, leading to anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are fewer or smaller than normal, which means less oxygen is carried to the body’s cells. Other symptoms of Crohn’s are constipation, eye inflammation, joint pain, joint swelling, mouth ulcers, rectal bleeding, skin sores (ulcers), swollen gums, and fistulas. Fistula is an abnormal connection or passageway between two epithelium-lined organs or vessels that normally do not connect that may cause draining of pus, mucus, or stools. The cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, but researchers believe it is the result of an abnormal reaction by the body’s immune system. Normally, the immune system protects people from infection by identifying and destroying bacteria, viruses, or other potentially harmful foreign substances and microorganisms. Researchers believe that in Crohn’s disease the immune system attacks bacteria, foods, and other substances that are actually harmless or beneficial to the body. During this process, white blood cells accumulate in the lining of the intestines, producing chronic inflammation, which leads to ulcers (sores) and injury to the intestines. Researches show there are several factors contribute to the inflammation of the GI tract of people with Crohn’s disease, the genes the person has inherited, the person’s immune system, and the environment.
Crohn’s disease affects men and women equally. People with Crohn’s disease may have a biological relative, most often a brother or sister, with some form of IBD. Crohn’s disease occurs in people of all ages, but it most commonly starts in people between...