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Crohn disease is simply a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract that affects any part of the tract from the anus to the mouth.

 Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea which can be bloody if the inflammation is really severe, fever, and weight loss. Other complications may occur outside the gastrointestinal tract and include anemia, skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, and tiredness. The skin rashes may be due to infections as well as pyoderma gangrenosum or erythema nodosum. Bowel obstruction also commonly occurs and those with the disease are at greater risk of bowel cancer.

The various forms of the disease are dependent on a number of factors like: the
location, the extent, and the severity of the inflammation. The different types
of Crohn's disease and their symptoms include:

1. Crohn's colitis is inflammation that is confined to the colon. Abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea are the common symptoms. Anal fistulae and peri-rectal abscesses also can occur.

2. Crohn's enteritis refers to inflammation confined to the small intestine (the second part, called the jejunum or the third part, called the ileum). Involvement of the ileum alone is referred to as Crohn's ileitis. Abdominal pain and diarrhea are the common symptoms. Obstruction of the small intestine also can occur.

3. Crohn's terminal ileitis is inflammation that affects only the very end of the small intestine (terminal ileum), the part of the small intestine closest to the colon. Abdominal pain and diarrhea are the common symptoms. Small intestinal obstruction also can occur.

4. Crohn's entero-colitis and ileo-colitis are terms to describe inflammation that involve both the small intestine and the colon. Bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain are the common symptoms. Small intestinal obstruction also can occur.

Studies haven’t really gotten the causes of the disease. Diet and stress may aggravate Crohn’s Disease, but they do not cause the disease on their own. Recent research suggests hereditary, genetics, and/or environmental factors contribute to the development of Crohn’s Disease.

There is a benefit, though, in understanding the possible causes of Crohn's disease and how they interact with one another. Doing so can help one better understand the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of Crohn's disease.

 It's possible that a virus or bacterium may trigger Crohn's disease. When your immune system tries to fight off the invading microorganism, an abnormal immune response causes the immune system to attack the cells in the digestive tract, too.

Crohn's is more common in people who have family members with the disease, so genes may play a role in making people more susceptible. However, most people with Crohn's disease don't have a family history of the disease.

The environment in which you live also appears to play a role. Crohn’s is more common in developed countries rather than undeveloped countries, in urban rather than rural areas, and in northern rather than southern climates.

There is no specific test for diagnosing Crohn’s disease. The diagnosis of Crohn's disease is suspected in patients with the symptoms of the diseases. Laboratory blood tests may show elevated white blood cell counts and sedimentation rates, both of which suggest infection or inflammation. Other blood tests may show low red blood cell counts (anemia), low blood proteins, and low body minerals, reflecting loss of these minerals due to chronic diarrhea.

A colonoscopy (test done on the colon) is approximately 70% effective in diagnosing the disease, with further tests being less effective. Disease in the small bowel is particularly difficult to diagnose, as a traditional colonoscopy allows access to only the colon and lower portions of the small intestines.

Crohn's disease itself is complex. Scientists continue to seek more information about the causes -- in hopes of finding better ways to diagnose, treat, and perhaps even cure this disease. In the meantime, understanding current theories about the causes of Crohn's disease can help you work with your doctor to explore how various treatments might work to control this condition.


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