Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. It is a chronic disease that causes inflammation and irritation in the digestive tract. Dr. Jerman, can you tell us more about Crohn's disease?
Sure thing, Dr. Mansfield. It's estimated that Crohn's disease affects more than half a million people in the United States. It belongs to a group of diseases called inflammatory bowel diseases, or IBD.
Although Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus, it most commonly affects the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine, or colon. It often begins gradually and can become worse over time, especially if left untreated.
Inflammation from Crohn's disease can cause a number of other health complications. For instance, the wall of the intestines can thicken and narrow over time, which can eventually block the intestines. A partial or complete intestinal blockage, also called a bowel obstruction, can prevent food or stool from moving through the intestines.
Another potential complication is called a fistula. A fistula is an abnormal passage between two organs, or between an organ and the outside of the body. Inflammation from Crohn's disease can penetrate through the wall of the intestines and create fistulas that may become infected, or may cause drainage of intestinal contents, such as stool and bacteria, into inappropriate and dangerous places, such as the bladder. Inflammation that goes through the wall of the intestine can also lead to abscesses, which are painful, swollen, pus-filled pockets of infection.
Anal fissures, or small tears in the anus, are another potential complication of Crohn's disease. Anal fissures can cause itching, pain, or bleeding.
Inflammation anywhere along the digestive tract can lead to ulcers or open sores in the mouth, intestines, anus, or perineum. Nutrient absorption and adsorption may be impaired, resulting in malnutrition and weight loss. In addition, the immune system may also attack the tissues in the joints, eyes, and skin, causing pain, swelling, redness, and even blindness if left untreated.These are all potential complications of Crohn's disease.