Crohn's Disease Overview
Crohn’s disease, frequently called regional enteritis, is an incurable inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that is diagnosed most often between the ages of 15 and 30. Symptoms are painful and can last for days following a flare-up.
Who Gets Crohn’s Disease?
It is estimated that nearly a million Americans suffer from Crohn’s disease, which is just one form of IBD. While more women than men appear to develop Crohn’s disease, when accounting for all forms of IBD, men and women are affected equally.
While Crohn’s disease tends to be a predominately young adult disease, individuals between the ages of 60 and 80 also tend to develop regional enteritis. Additionally, the disease is more often diagnosed in smokers than nonsmokers, and more often in women than men and tends to run in families.
Crohn’s disease has always been rare in South America and in Africa, while being quite prevalent in North America and Europe. But statistics appear to be changing. These days, it appears that more African Americans are beginning to develop Crohn’s disease.
Though there is no rhyme or reason for developing Crohn’s disease and no solid connections have been made at present as to why the disease is more frequent in certain areas of the world, statistics point toward more diagnoses of the disease in northern latitudes than in southern latitudes.
Crohn’s Disease Symptoms
Crohn’s disease operates on an irregular system of highs and lows, with lows being the flare-ups. Flareups can last from hours to weeks, months and even years. Unfortunately, because the patient never knows when to expect a flare-up, it’s hard to be prepared.
Because individuals suffering from the disease may have slightly different symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, and including complications, Crohn’s disease must be evaluated on a case by case study.
Symptoms may include:
- anal fissures (tears that develop in the anal lining that are painful and may lead to rectal bleeding)
- bouts of diarrhea
- dehydration and headaches
- flare-ups and down time
- intestinal fistulas (tunnel-like formation that join two loops of intestines and often leads to infection and pus and stool drainage)
- loss of appetite
- mild to severe GI problems
- rectal bleeding
- weight loss
While there is no known cure, researchers have discovered several factors they feel contribute to the development of the disease.
- environmental issues
- immune system
Types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease.
Ten percent of the individuals who develop inflammatory bowel issues do not necessarily present with the same symptoms as IBD or Crohn’s disease, therefore may be a different type of ulcerative colitis commonly referred to as indeterminate colitis. Physicians believe indeterminate colitis is a combination of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Available treatment for Crohn’s disease is limited to prescription medications to lesson the symptoms and nutritional supplements to ensure the patient is getting adequate nutrition. Because of poor intestinal absorption, many patients become malnourished.
Crohn’s patients are encouraged to follow a diet that is devoid of items that cause flare-ups. Because each patient is different, it’s important that patients create a journal and continuously report when flare-ups occur and what food, stress and or other issues were taking place at the same time.