Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive tract. Symptoms include abdominal pain and diarrhea, sometimes bloody, and weight loss. Crohn’s disease (CD) is named after the doctor who first described it in 1932. (Since he did not have the disease itself, it is sometimes more accurately called Crohn disease). Unlike Ulcerative Colitis which is predominantly located in or around the large bowel, The inflammation from Crohn’s disease can strike anywhere in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from mouth to anus, but is usually located in the lower part of the small bowel and the upper end of the colon. Patches of inflammation are interspersed between healthy portions of the gut and can penetrate the intestinal layers from inner to outer lining. CD can also affect the mesentery, which is the network of tissue that holds the small bowel to the abdomen and contains the main intestinal blood vessels and lymph glands.
What are the Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease?Since CD can be located anywhere in the GI tract, symptoms can vary. On the whole, however, they often include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and not surprisingly, weight loss and lack of energy. Crohn’s disease is a chronic (lifelong) illness. People who have CD will experience periods of acute flare-ups, when their symptoms are active and other times when their symptoms go into remission. The average risk of a flare-up in any one year is approximately 30%. In 25% of those with CD, perianal disease may also develop. “Peri” means “around” – therefore perianal disease is located “around the anus”. Specifically, this means that a person could develop:
- painful, swollen skin tags (that appear to be haemhorrhoids but are not)
- abscesses (bags of pus created inside the body as a result of infection)
- fistulas (infections that have tunnelled from the abscess to a hollow organ such as the rectum or vagina)