Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.3% of adults in the United States have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s disease is an IBD that causes your digestive tract to become irritated and inflamed. When any part of this pathway gets irritated and swollen, your body’s ability to break down food and absorb nutrients is affected.
What Is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a chronic digestive disorder named after gastroenterologist Dr. Burrill Crohn, who was among the first physicians to describe the illness in 1932.
With Crohn’s disease, the inflammation in an area of the digestive tract can spread deep into the bowel tissue. The major symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, fatigue, cramping, bloody stool, weight loss, and malnutrition due to food malabsorption.
There is no known cause of the disease, but smoking and genetics may play a role in developing the condition. An autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy cells in your digestive tract is also another factor.
Types of Crohn’s Disease
There are five types of Crohn’s disease, depending on which section of the digestive tract is affected.
The most common type of Crohn’s disease is ileocolitis, where the inflammation occurs in the small intestine or a part of the large intestine. The symptoms develop gradually and worsen over time. In some cases, a patient might experience no pain for weeks or months before a severe flare-up happens with no warning.
In ileitis, the ileum or the lower half of the small intestine becomes inflamed. Although ileitis is usually associated with Crohn’s disease, it may also result from other conditions. It’s possible to develop infectious ileitis from ingesting contaminated food products. Some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also cause small-bowel injury.
Since ileitis can occur due to reasons other than Crohn’s disease, it’s essential to consult a gastroenterologist to pinpoint the specific cause of the inflammation and prevent costly delays and errors in treatment.
Gastroduodenal Crohn’s Disease
This is a rare form of Crohn’s disease that affects the stomach and the duodenum, a short C-shaped structure that extends from the stomach. Its most common symptoms are abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Chronic inflammation also results in the formation of scar tissue, causing the gastric outlet to narrow. In some cases, chronic anemia may develop due to gastrointestinal blood loss.
To diagnose gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease, your doctor may recommend endoscopy with biopsy to detect any abnormalities like thickened folds and ulcerations in the duodenum.
This is another uncommon form of Crohn’s disease where the middle segment of the small intestine (jejunum) becomes inflamed. Unlike the distal ileal Crohn’s disease common among individuals in their 30s, jejunoileitis is more prevalent among younger patients in their 20s.
A surgical procedure known as strictureplasty is often necessary for the first year after the diagnosis of jejunoileitis. After surgery, the long-term healing prospects are generally positive, with anti-inflammatory drugs helping individuals live symptom-free.
Crohn’s colitis happens when a section or your entire colon becomes inflamed. This often results in bloody diarrhea and ulcers around the anus.
When an ulcer extends beyond the intestinal wall, an abnormal connection called a fistula forms between the intestine and another organ. Depending on the location, fistulas can prevent the bowel from absorbing food, although they commonly develop around the anal area.
When a fistula becomes infected, an abscess forms. An abscess is a pouch of infected fluid or pus surrounded by inflamed tissue.
Crohn’s Disease Treatment in Greater Cleveland, Ohio
Crohn’s disease can spread beyond the digestive tract and cause problems in the skin, gallbladder, and liver. Left untreated, it increases the risk of developing colon cancer. To detect digestive problems before they develop into severe complications, visit North Shore Gastroenterology for a comprehensive health check-up.
Our team of gastroenterologists uses state-of-the-art procedures to evaluate and treat a wide range of digestive disorders, including Crohn’s disease. While there is no cure for Crohn’s, we will help you control the symptoms through a mix of anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, and lifestyle modifications.