Crohns Disease and Your Immune System
What is Crohns Disease?
Crohns disease affects the digestive system, causing ulcerations (skin damage) within the gastrointestinal tract. These ulcers can occur anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract, but are most commonly located to the intestines. Due to this fact, Crohns disease is known as an intestinal chronic inflammatory disease.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Ulcerative colitis is another chronic inflammatory disease that is isolated to the colon. Together, ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease are referred to as inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammatory bowel disease affects approximately 2 million people in the United States yearly, based on estimations and reported cases.
Crohns Disease Cause
Currently, there is no known cause for Crohns disease, however many scientists are suspicious of specific bacterial infections, particularly strains of mycobacterium. To date, there is no scientific evidence to support the exact causes of Crohns disease. The majority of scientists agree that Crohns disease is primarily caused by a genetic predisposition, and research continues for more valid factual evidence to support these theories. It is agreed that while dietary and lifestyle changes may cause decreases in overall signs and symptoms of the disease, but are not cause for the development of the disease.
Crohns Disease Symptoms
There are many signs and symptoms associated with Crohns disease. Common symptoms of Crohns disease include lower right abdominal pain and diarrhea. Other less common symptoms include weight loss, rectal bleeding, skin problems, fever, and arthritis. Severe bleeding caused by Crohns disease that is persistent can be a serious complication which could lead to the development of anemia. Children that suffer from Crohns disease could have symptoms including stunted growth and delayed development.
The Immune System
The immune system is a mechanism utilized by the body for protection. It is designed in such a manner as to defend the body against viruses, microbes, toxins, parasites, and millions of bacteria. The immune system is both innate and adaptive. The work of the immune system often goes unnoticed, but it is constantly at work. Immune cells are transported through the blood and lymph systems. The immune system detects the presence of antigens. Antigens are defined as any substance that is responsible for the elicitation of an immune response. There are hundreds of thousands of antigens. Some antigens are responsible for allergies, and are dependent on the particular immune system and genetic/environmental predisposal.
Immune System and Crohns Disease
The immune system is responsible for the detection and elimination of any foreign substances. A normal immune system is only activated when the presence of a harmful foreign substance is discovered. Individuals with Crohns disease have an over active immune system that activates when presented with any foreign substance. This prolonged abnormal immune system activation can lead to conditions such as ulcers and chronic inflammation. Typically, this over activation is genetically inherited. There are currently several genes associated with the development of Crohns disease, and there is a strong correlation between family history and the development of Crohns disease.