Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition. The main feature is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The disease can affect any part of gastrointestinal tract but about 70% of the time it mainly involves the ileum.
What causes Crohn’s disease?
No one knows exactly what causes Crohn’s disease.
It is an autoimmune disease, and like other autoimmune diseases, it is probably caused by some combination of genetics and outside factors and experiences, including stress, diet, infections, and others that haven’t been identified.
Once an autoimmune disease is established, it doesn’t need the outside trigger to cause illness.
Allergies are also caused “confused” immune systems, but they require an outside stimulus like pollen.
Crohn’s disease symptoms
- Diarrhea – Inflammation causes the cells of your intestines to secrete large amounts of water and salt. The colon, which normally absorbs fluid from stool, can’t keep up, so you develop diarrhea.
- Blood in the stool – Inflammation can cause intestinal tissue to bleed. Food moving through the digestive tract can also cause inflamed tissue to bleed.
- Ulcers – Inflammation can cause small ulcers to develop throughout the digestive tract. Serious ulcers can eventually creates holes in the intestinal walls that leads to fistulas.
- Mucus in the stool
- Frequent bowel movements
- Bowel urgency
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss – People with Crohn’s disease can struggle with being too thin
How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?
Crohn’s disease isn’t diagnosed with a single test. The diagnosis depends partly on a physical exam and a patient’s medical history. Additionally, the following test may be performed to confirm or more clearly identify the disease:
- colonoscopy, which includes biospying tissue from inside the colon
- upper endoscopy (sometimes called esophagogastroduodenoscopy, which is abbreviated as EGD)
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- capsule endoscopy
- blood tests
- stool tests
Other interesting Crohn’s facts
Crohn’s disease is named after Dr. Burrill Crohn. Along with colleagues at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, Crohn was the first to describe the condition in 1932.
The disease was originally called terminal ileitis, but that name was abandoned because it wrongly suggested that the disease was fatal.