Crohn’s Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is an immune-mediated chronic inflammation of your gastrointestinal tract. Normally, the cells and proteins that make up the immune system protect you from infection. In people with IBD, however, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria, and other materials in the intestine for foreign or invading substances. When this happens, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines, where they produce chronic inflammation and ulcerations—called an autoimmune response.

There are two types of IBD, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis; both manifest as chronic immune-mediated inflammation of your gastrointestinal system. While they both cause similar symptoms, they are managed differently. Crohn’s disease may affect any part of your gastrointestinal system, from your mouth to the anus. Ulcerative colitis, however, is limited to the colon, otherwise known as the large intestine.

It is estimated that 1.4 million Americans have IBD, which tends to run in families and affects males and females equally.

What Are the Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease?

It is often difficult to diagnose which form of IBD is present because both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis cause similar symptoms. Both illnesses are marked by the immune system’s abnormal response, which leads to chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

Symptoms related to inflammation of the GI tract:

  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Urgent need to move bowels
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation
  • Constipation (can lead to bowel obstruction)

General symptoms that may also be associated with IBD:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of normal menstrual cycle

Some people with Crohn’s disease also get mouth sores, skin rashes, joint pain, and eye redness.

How is Crohn’s Disease Diagnosed?

Crohn’s disease is diagnosed by looking directly at the gastrointestinal tract. In order to get an accurate picture of your colon or large intestine, doctors may perform a procedure called colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, the doctor puts a thin tube into your rectum and advances it up into your colon. The tube has a camera attached to it, so the doctor can look inside your colon and the last part of your small intestine. Other imaging techniques and procedures can also be used to help doctors see your upper gastrointestinal system.

How is Crohn’s Disease Treated?