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Whatever the cause of Crohn's Disease, the inflammation spreads slowly and progressively. Enlarged lymph nodes block lymph flow to the submucossa. Lymphatic obstruction leads to edema, mucosal ulceration and fissures, abscesses, and sometimes granulomas. Mucosal ulcerations are referred to as skipping lesions because they aren't continuous, as in ulcerative colitis. (Pimentel, 2007)
Oval, elevated patches of closely packed lymph follicles, called Peyer's patches, develop in the lining of the small intestine. Subsequent fibrosis thickens the bowel wall and causes stenosis, or narrowing of the lumen.(Pimentel,2007) The serous membrane becomes swollen, inflamed bowel loops stick to other unhealthy or normal loops, and unhealthy bowel segments become interspersed with strong ones. The unhealthy parts of the bowel develop into thicker, narrower, and shorter segments.
Some of the symptoms of Crohn's disease are diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, blood in the stool, ulcers, and reduced appetite and weight loss. In the inflammation that happens in Crohn's disease causes cells in the affected areas of the intestine to secrete large amounts of water and salt. (wiki, 2010) Because of the colon can't fully take in in surplus fluid, one develops diarrhea. Increased intestinal cramping can contribute to diarrhea.(Pimentiel, 2007) The most common problem for a person with this disease is diarrhea. Other symptoms may include constipation, eye inflammation, fistulas, joint pain, liver inflammation, mouth ulcers, rectal bleeding and bloody stools, skin rash, and swollen gums.
The exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. Researchers believe that it may be related to abnormal immune system, genetic factors, and allergic reactions to certain foods, immunologic origin, and emotional stress. (WIKI, 2010) When the immune system tries to fight off the invading microorganisms, the digestive tract becomes inflamed. Mutations in a gene called NOD2 tend to occur frequently in people with CD. (Iggy, 2009)
Risk factors for CD are age which may occur at any age but the greatest risk is from 15- 30. Ethnicity whites have the highest risk but it can occur in any ethnic group. Smoking increases the risk for this disease as it does for a lot of other diseases and complications. People who live in an urban area are at an increased risk for CD also. (CNN,2009) This disease occurs often in people who live in cities and industrial nations. A diet high in fat or refined foods also plays a role.
Complications that can arise from Crohn's disease are bowel obstruction; it affects the entire thickness of the intestinal wall. Sections the colon can thicken and narrow, which may obstruct the course of the digestive inside through the affected part of the intestine.(Dubinsky, 2006) Suffering with inflammation over a long time can lead to ulcers anyplace in the digestive tract. Some ulcers can broaden totally through the intestinal wall, which creates a fistula, between your intestine and skin, or between your intestine and other organs. When a fistula develops, food may avoid places of the bowel that are essential for absorption. An external fistula can cause continuous drainage of bowel contents to the skin, and in some cases, it may form an abscess.(mayo, 2010) Diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping may make it hard for one to eat or when the intestines can't absorb enough nutrients to remain nourished. Anemia often develops because of Crohn's.
Diagnosing Crohn's disease is a little challenging a number of tests are often required to assist the health care professional in diagnosing this disease. They first rule out irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, and colon cancer. They do a number of blood tests to check for anemia, signs of an infection, looking for the presence of certain antibodies. (Iggy, 2009) They may do a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) that tests the blood in the stool.(wiki, 2010) A colonoscopy may be performed along with a flexible sigmoidoscopy.
Treatment for Crohn's disease may include drugs, nutritional supplements, surgery, or even a combination of these. Some of the drugs that may be used are anti-inflammation, Cortisone or steroids, Immune system suppressors, antibiotics, and anti-diarrheal and fluid replacements. (Dubinsky,2006) The doctor may also recommend a nutritional supplement.
Surgical treatment for CD is a colectomy which removes the entire colon. A pouch is worn over the stoma after the colon is removed and it collects the waste. (Dubinsky,2006) The pts have to empty the pouch as needed and it is normal for these people to go on with their daily lives as they did before the colectomy. Sometimes the diseased portion of the intestine is removed and reconnected so no stoma is needed. (Dubinsky,2006) Since Crohn's disease often reoccurs again after the surgery, the pts have to think very carefully about making the decision to have the surgery done.
Living with Crohn's disease can be managed. Changing the diet and lifestyle may help increase the time between inflammations. (Dubinsky,2006) Some foods and beverages can worsen the signs and symptoms of this disease. Decrease dairy, the body sometimes can't digest the lactose in dairy products. If Crohn's disease is found in the small intestine then one may not be able to digest or absorb fat.(Mayo, 2010) Avoid foods such as margarine, cream sauces, and fried foods.
Crohn's disease takes a toll on one physically as well as emotionally.(Lee, 2010) Taking care of the body and being aware of changes and knowing the signs and symptoms of the disease worsening are very important. There are many support groups available that provide emotional support and keep one informed on the latest medical breakthroughs.