Your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is one of the most important parts of your body, as it plays a role in digesting foods, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating wastes, not to mention that 80 percent of your immune system is located in your gut. So when inflammation strikes, putting your GI tract in less than optimal condition, your overall health can be compromised, wreaking havoc on your body processes and causing debilitating pain at the same time. This is exactly what happens when you get Crohn's disease.
Basic Facts About Crohn's Disease
Named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn, a physician who first described the disease in 1932, Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that occurs when an abnormal immune system response leads to chronic inflammation anywhere in the GI or digestive tract — from the mouth to the anus.1 This autoimmune condition is often confused with ulcerative colitis, another type of IBD, but there are distinct differences between the two.
Crohn's disease is now becoming a widespread problem — in fact, of the 1.4 million Americans dealing with IBD today, about 700,000 are suffering from Crohn's. In the U.K., 90,000 people have this illness. More than 8,000 new cases of Crohn's are diagnosed every year, and research shows that the number continues to rise, particularly among young people.2 Anyone can be diagnosed with Crohn's, although it usually manifests in people 15 to 30 years old.
Crohn's Disease Can Wreak Havoc on Your Health
The havoc that Crohn's disease inflicts on your GI tract can lead to a variety of symptoms, which can be mild to severe. These include abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fatigue and weight loss. The intensity of these symptoms can depend on the area/s affected. Note that Crohn's disease can appear in "patches" — affecting some parts, while leaving others untouched.
Not only is Crohn's disease debilitating, but it's also an expensive illness. In the U.S., the total cost for all patients with both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis is anywhere between $11 billion and $28 billion.3 Unfortunately, the cause of Crohn's disease is still undetermined, but studies found that certain lifestyle and genetic factors may be in play.
Since there is still no specific treatment that can completely banish this disease — only measures to prevent flare-ups and prolong remission — you should be alert to factors that may increase your risk of this illness.
If you feel as if you or someone close to you may be dealing with this disease, take action immediately. This comprehensive guide will tell you all you need to know about Crohn's disease: its symptoms and possible causes, risk factors, similarities and differences with ulcerative colitis, and how it can impact children's health. Start reading so you can be more informed about this debilitating disease — before it's too late.