Crohn’s Disease is a chronic condition that causes inflammation any part of the digestive system or gut. The most common area affected is the end of the ileum (the last part of the small intestine), or the colon.
The areas of inflammation are often patchy with sections of normal gut in between. A patch of inflammation may involve a few centimetres, or extend quite a distance along part of the gut. As well as affecting the lining of the bowel, Crohn’s may also go deeper into the bowel wall. It’s one of the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The other is Ulcerative Colitis.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease vary from person to person, and may depend on where in the gut the disease is active.
The main symptoms of IBD are:
Diarrhoea sometimes mixed with blood, mucus and pus
Cramping pains in the abdomen
Tiredness and fatigue due to the illness itself, from anaemia (see below), from the side effects of some of the drugs used for IBD or from a lack of sleep if you have to keep getting up at night with pain or diarrhoea
Feeling generally unwell
Loss of appetite and loss of weight due to the body not absorbing nutrients from the food you eat because of the inflammation in the gut.
Anaemia (a reduced number of red blood cells) if you are losing a lot of blood and are not eating much
Who gets Crohn’s Disease?
We think Crohn’s Disease affects at least 115,000 people in the UK and millions more worldwide. It is more likely to affect white people of European descent, especially those descended from Ashkenazi Jews (who lived in Eastern Europe and Russia).
The disease can start at any age, but usually appears for the first time between 10 and 40. Surveys suggest that new cases of Crohn’s are being diagnosed more often, particularly among teenagers and children. It’s slightly more common in women than in men, and also in smokers.
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