Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. It can be located anywhere in the digestive system, but usually it is in the end of the small intestine and in the large intestine. Most common symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stools, fever and weight loss. The diagnosis is made based on a colonoscopy and biopsies. The illness is treated with medication and in severe cases with surgery. Crohn’s disease is not contagious.
The cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown. The illness can start at any age, but usually in younger years (15-35 years), and it is a little bit more common in women than in men. Genetic factors play a role, and it is believed that some environmental factor triggers the illness in persons who are genetically predisposed. In Crohn’s disease patients, the intestine’s own immune system reacts exceptionally strongly to inflammation caused by an external stimulus and remains “switched on”.
The prevalence of Crohn’s disease has increased greatly as the Western living conditions and lifestyle have changed. The scarce natural microbial contacts in infancy and dietary factors have been suggested as a reason. Although many patients experience that some foods cause bowel symptoms, no cause for the illness has been found in diet. Crohn’s disease cannot be cured with a diet.
Smokers have a higher risk of getting Crohn’s disease, and the illness is often more complicated in smokers. Psychological factors have not been proved to cause the illness, but stress increases symptoms. Sometimes Crohn’s disease in the large intestine is difficult to differentiate from ulcerative colitis. In such cases, the condition is called indeterminate colitis. The differential diagnosis, however, does not affect treatment.