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Crohn’s Disease, also known as granulomatous colitis and regional enteritis, is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects both men and women equally, with symptoms presenting typically between the ages of 15 and 30. While Crohn's Disease can affect any part of gastrointestinal (GI) tract from the mouth to the anus, it usually affects the lower part of the small intestine, called the ileum, causing swelling and inflammation of the lining. Crohn's Disease is classified as an autoimmune disorder as the body’s immune system attacks the digestive system, leading to additional complications.
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Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
Patients suffering from Crohn's Disease experience severe bouts of abdominal pain, often in the lower right quadrant, and diarrhea sometimes accompanied by rectal bleeding and intestinal ulcers. Persistent rectal bleeding may occur, leading to anemia. Many patients find that their symptoms are triggered by a variety of foods, which then leads to vomiting, loss of appetite and severe weight loss.
Crohn's Disease in children commonly causes slowed development or stunted growth. This condition that usually prompts further investigation leading to the eventual diagnosis of Crohn's Disease.
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Accessory Medical Conditions of Crohn’s Disease
Many times, patients suffering from Crohn's Disease find themselves host to a variety of other complications seemingly unrelated to, but documented as common with, Crohn's. Common afflictions to systems outside of the GI tract include arthritis, skin lesions and disorders, and blood clots of the legs and lungs.
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Causes of Crohn's Disease
While the cause of Crohn's Disease is unknown, there is strong evidence that it is a genetic disorder, with 20% of all patients having a close family relative also suffering from some form of digestive system disorder. Furthermore, people of Jewish descent are more likely to be afflicted with Crohn's Disease while incidents among the African American population are very few.
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Prognosis and Treatment for Crohn’s Disease
While there is no known cure for Crohn's Disease, the condition is not fatal. Treatment of Crohn's is limited to managing of the symptoms and trying to prevent the onset of additional inflammatory attacks through avoidance of trigger foods and medication.
Preventative medications include anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone, steroids, or other immune system suppressors, and antibiotics to treat bacterial development and ulcers in the small intestines due to lining damage from the disease. Of course, use of any medications to control or suppress the immune system, puts the patient at risk for further infections.
In addition to preventative medications, many patients are treated with diet supplementations to replace lost fluids and nutritional requirements. This is especially important in children, as resulting malnutrition is credited for the developmental delays in these patients.
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Long Term Effects of Crohn’s Disease
With continual attention to dietary needs and monitoring by medical professionals, Crohn's Disease sufferers can go for long periods of symptom free living with no dramatic impact to lifestyle. As many complications arise from malnutrition side effects of the disease, it is vitally important to maintain a healthy diet and discuss any indications of symptom returns with your doctor immediately.