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Crohn's Disease

By: Jody Ehrhardt - Updated: 24 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Crohn's Disease Inflammatory Bowel

Crohn's Disease is one of the many inflammatory bowel diseases that cause irritation swelling, and inflammation of the intestines. The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease are similar to those of colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. However, there are distinctions that make diagnosis and treatment easier and more effective.

Understanding Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease, also called enteritis or ileitis, is an inflammatory disorder that affects the digestive tract. Although the disease can appear anywhere along the tract it is most commonly found in the small intestine. More specifically, Crohn's disease is most frequently found in the ileum, which is the lower part of the small intestine. The development of Crohn's disease causes swelling to occur in the deep layers of the lining of the small intestine. This swelling can lead to diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Although other inflammatory bowel diseases can cause both diarrhoea and abdominal pain there are a few indications that single out Crohn's disease.

Is It Crohn's Disease?

Other inflammatory bowel diseases, such as colitis and irritable bowel syndrome, result in the inflammation of the intestines. However, the inflammation associated with these conditions is usually reserved to the top layers of the lining of the intestines and it affects all of the tissue in that area. With Crohn's disease the inflammation can be found in even the deepest layers of intestinal tissue and between layers of inflammation areas of healthy tissue can be found. Other indications that your pain may be caused by Crohn's disease include genetics (if a close relative suffers from Crohn's you have a greater risk of developing the condition), age (Crohn's disease usually affects individuals in their late twenties or early thirties), and heritage (Crohn's disease is more common in people of Jewish heritage and less common in African Americans).

What Causes Crohn's Disease?

The exact cause of Crohn's disease has yet to be discovered, however, many theories exist to explain its onset. Many doctors believe that Crohn's is caused by an immune system reaction in the intestines. The immune system works to keep the body healthy by detecting and attacking foreign matter in tissues, organs, and body systems. In the case of Crohn's doctors believe that the immune system mistakenly attacks food particles and bacteria that are normally found in the intestine. This mistaken reaction happens over and over again and leads to the inflammation and swelling of the small intestine.

Other doctors believe that this immune system reaction is actually a symptom of Crohn's disease and not the cause. In this case the doctors feel that something else causes the disease, which leads to inflammation. The inflammation then triggers a reaction from the immune system. The immune system then uses white blood cells to fight the inflammation. However, since the cause of the inflammation is not being treated the swelling does not decrease and the white blood cells keep attacking. This continuous reaction furthers the progress of the inflammation.

The Symptoms of Crohn's Disease

Although the cause of Crohn's cannot be agreed upon the most common symptoms associated with the disease can be. Individuals who suffer from Crohn's disease usually experience diarrhoea and lower abdominal pain. As the disease progresses other symptoms, such as weight loss, cramping, fever, and rectal bleeding, may occur. In some cases, individuals with Crohn's also suffer from skin problems, anaemia, and arthritis. In all cases the symptoms of Crohn's can vary in severity, frequency, and duration.

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