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Crohn's Disease

What is Crohn's Disease?

Crohn's disease, also called ileitis or regional enteritisis or colitis, is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the general name for diseases that cause inflammation in the intestines. Crohn's disease is not fatal, and many people diagnosed with Crohn's are able to lead active, productive lives.

Crohn's disease causes inflammation in the small intestine. Crohn's disease usually occurs in the lower part of the small intestine, but it can affect any part of the digestive tract.

Crohn's Disease was first widely recognized by an American doctor named Burril Crohn in 1932.

Living with Crohn's disease

Children with Crohn's disease may suffer delayed development and stunted growth.

Symptoms of Crohn's Disease?

The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease are: loss of appetite, abdominal pain, often in the lower right area, joint pain, fatigue, green stool, sores around the anal area and diarrhea. Sometimes rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fever may occur. Bleeding may be serious and persistent, leading to anemia. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor.

For some people, symptoms are severe and can be debilitating, while others experience long periods of time where their symptoms are mild.

What Causes Crohn's Disease?

Researchers are not sure of the exact cause of Crohn's disease.

What are the Complications of Crohn's Disease?

The most common complication of Crohn's disease is blockage of the intestine. When blockage of the intestine occurs, a patient may experience painful cramps, or vomiting due to food that is not able to bypass the obstruction. Crohn's disease may also cause sores, or ulcers, in the affected areas (bladder, vagina or skin).

Other health problems associated with Crohn's disease are: anal fissures, arthritis, skin problems, inflammation in the eyes or mouth, kidney stones, gallstones, or other diseases of the liver and biliary system.

What Is the Treatment for Crohn's Disease?

The goals of treatment are to suppress inflammation; enable healing; and relieve the symptoms of fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Some of the treatment options are: medication, nutrition supplements, surgery, or a combination of these options.

Hope Through Research

Researchers continue to look for more effective treatments. Examples of investigational treatments include:

Anti-TNF. Research has shown that cells affected by Crohn's disease contain a cytokine, a protein produced by the immune system, called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF may be responsible for the inflammation of Crohn's disease. Anti-TNF is a substance that finds TNF in the bloodstream, binds to it, and removes it before it can reach the intestines and cause inflammation. In studies, anti-TNF seems particularly helpful in closing fistulas.

Interleukin 10. Interleukin 10 (IL-10) is a cytokine that suppresses inflammation. Researchers are now studying the effectiveness of synthetic IL-10 in treating Crohn's disease.

Antibiotics. Antibiotics are now used to treat the bacterial infections that often accompany Crohn's disease, but some research suggests that they might also be useful as a primary treatment for active Crohn's disease.

Budesonide. Researchers recently identified a new corticosteroid called budesonide that appears to be as effective as other corticosteroids but causes fewer side effects.

Methotrexate and cyclosporine. These are immunosuppressive drugs that may be useful in treating Crohn's disease. One potential benefit of methotrexate and cyclosporine is that they appear to work faster than traditional immunosuppressive drugs.

Natalizumab. Natalizumab is an experimental drug that reduces symptoms and improves the quality of life when tested in people with Crohn's disease. The drug decreases inflammation by binding to immune cells and preventing them from leaving the bloodstream and reaching the areas of inflammation.

Zinc. Free radicals--molecules produced during fat metabolism, stress, and infection, among other things--may contribute to inflammation in Crohn's disease. Free radicals sometimes cause cell damage when they interact with other molecules in the body. The mineral zinc removes free radicals from the bloodstream. Studies are under way to determine whether zinc supplementation might reduce inflammation.

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