Like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. In principle, Crohn’s disease can appear in any section of the digestive tract – from the mouth to the anus. Most often, however, the end of the small intestine (ileum) or the upper section of the large intestine (colon) is affected. Doctors speak of “Crohn’s disease with ileocecal infection” if the last section of the small intestine and at the same time the appendix (cecum) are affected. “Crohn’s colitis” is when parts of the large intestine or the entire colon have become inflamed.
With Crohn’s disease – in contrast to ulcerative colitis – not only can the intestinal mucous membrane become inflamed on the surface, but deeper layers of the intestinal wall can also be affected. Scientists have not yet been able to clarify exactly what causes this. However, since the disease occurs more often in families, a genetic predisposition probably plays a role. As far as we know today, individual disease genes mean that Crohn’s disease occurs more frequently. In addition, environmental factors favour the disease: smokers, for example, have a higher risk. Psychological stress does not trigger Crohn’s disease, but it can have an unfavourable effect on the course. When different factors come together, the immune system seems to turn against its own body and cause permanent inflammation in the intestines.
The disease is mainly noticeable at a young age. The average age of onset is between the ages of 15 and 35. In principle, Crohn’s disease can also occur in older people. The intestinal disease progresses in bouts – there are times when it causes symptoms and times when it is symptom-free.
Typical symptoms of Crohn’s disease include diarrhea that lasts for many weeks and abdominal pain. Patients often describe this as spasmodic, and the pain occurs more frequently in the right lower abdomen. Unwanted weight loss is also one of the signs. However, symptoms vary from person to person and depend, among other things, on which section of the digestive tract the disease affects. In addition, the symptoms are similar to those of ulcerative colitis. Inflammation outside the bowel, such as joint pain (called extraintestinal manifestations), is also common and can sometimes be the first symptom.
Making the diagnosis is often not easy. The doctor will carry out various examinations for this. For example, he determines inflammatory substances in the blood, examines the abdomen with an ultrasound device, performs a colonoscopy and takes tissue samples.
The therapy aims primarily to stop the inflammatory process. Medicines such as cortisone or special anti-inflammatory drugs are used during an acute flare-up. If relapses occur repeatedly, the patient usually has to take special medication on a long-term basis to prevent another relapse. Diet also plays a role, especially with children and those who are underweight. For example, many patients cannot tolerate high-fibre foods because they bloat. If people with Crohn’s disease suffer from diarrhea for a long time, they can no longer absorb important nutrients and vitamins. These then have to be supplied in a targeted manner. In addition, some affected people are not spared an operation. Especially when Crohn’s disease leads to negative side effects such as fistulas or even intestinal obstruction.
Your local colon hydrotherapist can help to ease some of the symptoms with special medicated enema’s.