Facts About Crohn’s Disease
What is Crohn's
- It is a chronic inflammatory condition of the digestive tract.
- It has been diagnosed in adults and children, and affects about a half
- It can occur anywhere in the digestive tract, from the mouth on down. It
most commonly affects the lower part of the small intestine.
- It is incurable, but there are treatments available to relieve symptoms.
How Do You Get It?
Medical experts aren't sure. According to the National
Institutes of Health, the most popular theory is that the body's immune system
reacts abnormally in people with Crohn's disease, mistaking bacteria, foods, and
other substances as things that don't belong in the body. The immune system
attacks these "invaders," often causing white blood cells to accumulate in the
intestinal lining. This causes chronic inflammation that can lead to ulcerations
and bowel injury.
What are the Symptoms?
The most common symptoms are abdominal pain—often in the lower
right area—and diarrhea. Rectal bleeding, weight loss, arthritis, skin problems,
and fever may occur. Bleeding may be serious and persistent, leading to anemia.
How is It Diagnosed?
A thorough physical exam and a series of tests may be required
to diagnose Crohn's disease.
What are the Possible Complications?
- A blockage caused by thickening of the intestine is the most common
complication of Crohn's disease.
- Sores or ulcers, called "fistulas," that tunnel through the affected area
into surrounding tissues. Fistulas often become infected.
- Small tears called fissures may develop in the lining of the mucus membrane
of the anus.
- Nutritional effects such as deficiencies of proteins, calories, and
- Arthritis, skin problems, inflammation in the eyes or mouth, kidney stones,
gallstones, and other diseases of the liver and biliary system.
Research has shown that pregnancy and delivery are usually not
impaired in women with Crohn's disease. Still, women with the disease should
consult with their doctors before pregnancy.
What are the Treatments?
Available treatments include drugs, nutritional supplements and
surgical removal of affected parts of the intestine. Actual treatment depends on
the location and severity of disease, complications, and the person's response
to previous medical treatments.
Medical therapies include
- anti-inflammation drugs
- cortisone or steroids
- immune system suppressors
- anti-diarrheal drugs and fluid replacements.
In addition to Tysabri, FDA has approved Remicade (infliximab)
and Humira (adalimumab). Both products are approved for the treatment of adults
with moderate to severe Crohn's disease that doesn't respond to standard
In addition, Remicade is approved for the treatment of children
6 years and older, and for the treatment of adult patients with open, draining
fistulas. Humira is also approved for the treatment of patients with moderate to
severe Crohn's disease who have lost response or are intolerant to Remicade.
Published January 16, 2008
Silver Planet Medical Staff