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Crohns Disease

Overview :

Crohn's disease involves inflammation of the intestine, especially the small intestine. Inflammation refers to swelling, redness, and loss of normal function. There is evidence that the inflammation is caused by various products of the immune system that attack the body itself instead of helpfully attacking a foreign invader (a virus or bacteria, for example). The inflammation of Crohn's disease most commonly affects the last part of the ileum (a section of the small intestine), and often includes the large intestine (the colon). However, inflammation may also occur in other areas of the gastrointestinal tract, affecting the mouth, esophagus, or stomach. Crohn's disease differs from ulcerative colitis, the other major type of IBD, in two important ways:

  • The inflammation of Crohn's disease may be discontinuous, meaning that areas of involvement in the intestine may be separated by normal, unaffected segments of intestine. The affected areas are called "regional enteritis," while the normal areas are called "skip areas."
  • The inflammation of Crohn's disease affects all the layers of the intestinal wall, while ulcerative colitis affects only the lining of the intestine.

Also, ulcerative colitis does not usually involve the small intestine; in rare cases, it involves the terminal ileum (so-called "backwash" ileitis).

In addition to inflammation, Crohn's disease causes ulcerations, or irritated pits in the intestinal wall. These pits occur because the inflammation has made areas of tissue shed.

Crohn's disease may be diagnosed at any age, although most diagnoses are made between the ages 15 to 35. About 0.02-0.04% of the population suffers from this disorder, with men and women having an equal chance of being stricken. Whites are more frequently affected than other racial groups, and people of Jewish origin are between three and six times more likely to suffer from IBD. IBD runs in families; an IBD patient has a 20% chance of having other relatives who are fellow sufferers.

Crohn's disease is a chronic disorder. While the symptoms can be improved, a patient will not be completely cured of the underlying disease.

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