Crohn’s disease

A chronic inflammatory disease affecting the gastrointestinal tract. In young people, Crohn’s disease usually affects the ileum, causing spasms of abdominal pain, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, anaemia, weight loss, and malabsorption. In elderly people, the rectum is more often affected, causing rectal bleeding. In both groups, the disease may also affect the anus, the colon and, rarely, the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Complications include obstructions in the intestine; chronic abscesses; internal fistulas (abnormal passageways) between intestinal loops; and external fistulas from the intestine to the skin of the abdomin skin or around the anus. Complications in other parts of the body may include inflammation of the eye, severe arthritis in various joints, ankylosing spondylitis, and skin disorders (including eczema). Investigatory procedures may include sigmoidoscopy and X-rays using barium (see barium X-ray examinations). Colonoscopy and biopsy may help distinguish the disease from ulcerative colitis. Sulfasalazine and related drugs, and corticosteroid drugs may be prescribed. A high-vitamin, low-fibre diet may be beneficial. Acute attacks may require hospital treatment, and many patients need surgery. The symptoms fluctuate over many years, eventually subsiding in some patients. If the disease is localized, a person may remain in normal health.


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