Crohn’s Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in which areas of the intestinal tract become inflamed causing sloughing and, in some instances, ulcers. While many other IBDs cause inflammation of the intestinal lining, Crohn’s affects all layers of the intestine, not just the surface. The most common symptoms include diarrhea and intense stomach pain.
Although usually affecting the portion of the small intestine known as the ileum the condition is not limited solely to the small intestine and can affect any area of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. Severity varies—only a small area of intestine is affected in some people, while others suffer from widespread intestinal inflammation. Many people receive a treatment that helps control flare-ups and allows you to enjoy life without interruptions.
Diagnosis: The Colonoscopy
Arriving at a diagnosis can be difficult, as so many of its symptoms, especially stomach pain, mimic other IBDs such as irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis. Stomach pain is a very common complaint and, unfortunately, this symptom may point to a variety of causes, making diagnosis a challenge. In order to firmly establish an accurate diagnosis, a colonoscopy may be preformed. A colonoscopy is a specialized form of endoscopy, a procedure in which a thin fiber optic tube with a tiny camera attached is inserted into the body to examine the digestive tract.
When endoscopy is used to diagnose Crohn’s Disease, the endoscope is inserted through the rectum to examine the colon for areas of inflammation.
One of the benefits of endoscopy is that, if needed, the endoscope can also be used to obtain tissue samples for tissue biopsy.
Facts and Figures about Crohn’s Disease
Most diagnoses are made between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five, but people can develop Crohn’s at any age.
Crohn’s Disease appears to be hereditary.
People of Jewish heritage are three to four times as likely to develop Crohn’s Disease than people from other ethnic groups.
Crohn’s Disease is chronic: although it may go into temporary remission, it eventually flares up again.
Possible Causes of Crohn’s
The causes of Crohn’s Disease remain a mystery, but many researchers believe that the disease is triggered by a faulty immune system. Either the immune system responds too aggressively to bacteria in the intestine, or it may even perceive normal food and intestinal contents as a threat. This results in inflammation and the sudden emptying of the intestines.
British research team at St. George’s Hospital Medical School in London, have discovered that 92 percent of Crohn’s disease patients harbor the bacterium Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP) in their intestinal tissues. Only 26 percent of patients without Crohn’s Disease have MAP. This implicates the bacterium as a cause of Crohn’s Disease inflammation. MAP (the same bacterium that causes Johne’s Disease in cattle) is a contaminant of unpasteurized milk and dairy products.