What Is Crohn's Disease
Crohn’s disease is an intestinal disease that causes chronic inflammation of the thickness of the wall of various sections of the digestive tract, generally in the intestine.
It can affect people of any age. However, most patients are young adults between the ages of 16 and 40. Crohn’s disease usually occurs in people who live in northern climates.
It affects men and women equally and, in addition, it seems to be more common in some families, so we deduce that genetics is involved in the development of the disease. About 20% of Crohn’s disease patients have a family member with some type of inflammatory bowel disease.
To better understand Crohn’s disease, it’s important to briefly discuss inflammatory bowel disease.
What is inflammatory bowel disease?
Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is characterized by a chronic inflammation of the intestinal wall of non-specific etiology.
Also, it occurs more than once over time. Within this disease, there are two other major pathologies, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
As for the first, it only affects the mucosa of the colon wall. Unlike this, Crohn’s disease affects the entire thickness of the intestinal wall and all intestinal segments. However, this condition appears segmental and asymmetric.
Discover more here: Differences Between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
Causes of Crohn’s disease
The exact origin of this disease is unknown, but a series of immunological, microbiological, environmental, and genetic factors have been established that increase the risk of suffering from it.
The most widely accepted hypothesis regarding the importance of these factors indicates that there’s a genetically determined individual susceptibility. This fact influences the fact that the disease develops in the face of autoimmune dysregulation against certain environmental factors, within which the microbiota plays a relevant role.
In short, the factors that favor the development of Crohn’s disease are:
Since Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the intestine, the symptoms can be very different from one patient to another. Among the most common we find:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
As we have said, not all patients suffer from these symptoms. Sometimes the disease runs without any of them. Other symptoms are anal pain, fissures, and arthritis.
In addition, this disease has been linked to a greater predisposition to colon cancer. However, studies haven’t yet been conclusive, as the exact causes of the development of Crohn’s disease aren’t known.
You may be interested in: 10 Tips to Calm Stomach Acidity
How is it diagnosed?
The diagnosis of this pathology is made through clinical data obtained from laboratory and histological tests, as well as endoscopic and radiological ones. There’s no specific test to detect the disease.
Therefore, it’s necessary to always rule out celiac enteropathy and intestinal infections, since both diseases also cause inflammation of the mucosa.
The lack of an effective test for the early diagnosis of this disease leads to a significant delay in diagnosis. The tests that are carried out are:
- Endoscopy: This allows initial and differential diagnosis. It also serves to assess the response to treatment and, in some cases, as a therapeutic method.
- Radiology: This helps to detect edema, ulcers, strictures, fistulas, and extraintestinal affectations.
- Laboratory tests: The calprotectin test is usually carried out, which will determine if there’s intestinal inflammation or not, depending on the presence of this protein in the stools or not.
- Histology: A biopsy is performed to carry out a differential diagnosis.
As the causes of Crohn’s disease are unknown, this disease is incurable. However, it can be controlled by acting on its symptoms. For this reason, most patients can lead a normal life.
In this sense, the goal of treatment is to avoid new outbreaks or reduce the duration of those that arise. Among the treatment options we find:
- Pharmacological: The drugs used are usually glucocorticoids in acute outbreaks and immunosuppressants to maintain the long-term effect.
- Surgical: This consists in removing the affected part of the intestine to ensure that the person is free of symptoms in the short term. This operation isn’t curative.
- Changes in diet.
- Najarian, D. J., & Gottlieb, A. B. (2003). Crohn ’ s Disease. Drug Therapy.
- Welch, C. E. (1970). Enfermedad de Crohn. Prensa Medica Argentina.
- Scott, F. I., & Osterman, M. T. (2013). Medical management of crohn disease. Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0033-1348043