Crohn's disease is an ongoing disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, also referred to as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Crohn's disease can affect any area of the GI tract, from the mouth to the anus, but it most commonly affects the lower part of the small intestine, called the ileum. The swelling extends deep into the lining of the affected organ. The swelling can cause pain and can make the intestines empty frequently, resulting in diarrhea. Crohn's disease effects men and women equally and seems to run in some families. About 20 percent of people with Crohn's disease have a blood relative with some form of inflammatory bowel disease., most often a brother or sister or sometimes a parent or child. Crohn's disease can occur in people of all age groups, but it is more often diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 30. Crohn's disease may also be called ileitis or enteritis.
Several theories exist about what causes Crohn’s disease, but none have been proven. The human immune system is made from cells and different proteins that protect people from infection. The most popular theory is that the body;s immune system reacts abnormally in people with Crohn’s disease, mistaking bacteria, foods, and other substances for being foreign. The immune system’s response is to attack these “invaders”. During this process, white blood cells accumulate in the lining of the intestine, producing chronic inflammation, which leads to ulcerations and bowel injury.Doctors to not know if the abnormality in the functioning of the immune system in people with Crohn’s disease is a cause, or a result, of the disease.
The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease are abdominal pain, often in the lower right area, and diarrhea.Other symptoms include:
- rectal bleeding
- weight loss
- skin problems
- fever may occur
Bleeding may be serious and persistent, leading to anemia. Children with Crohn’s disease may suffer delayed development and stunted growth. The range of severity of symptoms varies.
A thorough physical exam and a series of test may be required to diagnose Crohn’s disease. Blood test may be done to test for anemia, which could indicate bleeding in the intestines. Blood tests may also uncover a high white blood cell count, which is a sign of inflammation somewhere in the body. By testing a stool sample, the doctor can tell if there is bleeding or infection in the intestines.
Our board certified physician may also request you do an Upper GI series to look at the small intestine. If these tests show Crohn’s disease, more x-rays of both the upper and lower digestive tract may be necessary to see how much of the GI tract is affected by the disease. The physician may also do a visual exam of the colon by performing a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy can be performed at our Premier Endoscopy Center located on the second floor of our office building.
Your board certified physician will be able to see if there is any inflammation or bleeding during this exam. At the same time the physician may perform a biopsy, which involves taking a sample of tissue from the lining of the intestine during the colonoscopy, to be be viewed under a microscope.