What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is a digestive disorder characterized by inflammation in the small or large intestine. Although almost any part of the digestive tract can be affected, Crohn’s disease is most commonly seen in the last segment of the small intestine (the ileum), or in the colon.
The severity of Crohn’s disease varies from person to person. In some cases, the condition spreads to the deeper layers of bowel tissue, which can cause extreme pain and potentially life-threatening complications.
What are the symptoms?
Crohn’s disease usually develops slowly over a period of time, but some people experience a sudden onset of symptoms. The condition goes through phases of being active interspersed with periods of remission. The main symptoms are as follows:
- Abdominal pain ranging from mild to severe, and that may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting
- Intestinal cramping and diarrhea, sometimes with blood in the stool
- Pain and swelling in and around the anus
- Low-grade fever and fatigue
- Weight loss that cannot be attributed to any other cause, usually accompanied by lack of an appetite
- Inflammation in other parts of the body, such as the eyes, joints and liver
- Delayed growth in affected children
What are the risk factors?
Although the cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, some risk factors have been identified. These include the following:
- Genetics: Crohn’s disease is more commonly diagnosed in people with a family history of the condition.
- Age: Most people with Crohn’s disease are diagnosed before the age of thirty.
- Ethnicity: white people and those of Eastern European descent are at higher risk than other ethnic groups
- Lifestyle: people who smoke cigarettes have a significantly higher risk of developing Crohn’s disease, and the severity of symptoms is greater
- Medication: certain anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, can aggravate existing cases of Crohn’s disease
- Location: people who live in urban areas are more likely to develop the condition than those in rural areas, possibly due to the availability of refined foods