Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus. Signs and symptoms often include abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody if inflammation is severe), fever, and weight loss. Other complications may occur outside the gastrointestinal tract and include anemia, skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, and feeling tired. The skin rashes may be due to infections as well as pyoderma gangrenosum or erythema nodosum. Bowel obstruction also commonly occurs and those with the disease are at greater risk of bowel cancer. Crohn's disease is caused by a combination of environmental, immune and bacterial factors in genetically susceptible individuals. It results in a chronic inflammatory disorder, in which the body's immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract possibly directed at microbial antigens. While Crohn's is an immune related disease, it does not appear to be an autoimmune disease (in that the immune system is not being triggered by the body itself). The exact underlying immune problem is not clear; however, it may be an immunodeficiency state.About half of the overall risk is related to genetics with more than 70 genes found to be involved. Tobacco smokers are two times more likely to develop Crohn's disease than nonsmokers. It also often begins after gastroenteritis. Diagnosis is based on a number of findings including biopsy and appearance of the bowel wall, medical imaging and description of the disease. Other conditions that can present similarly include irritable bowel syndrome and Behçet's disease. There are no medications or surgical procedures that can cure Crohn's disease. Treatment options help with symptoms, maintain remission, and prevent relapse. In those newly diagnosed, a corticosteroid may be used for a brief period of time to quickly improve the disease with another medication such as either methotrexate or a thiopurine used to prevent recurrence. An important part of treatment is the stopping of smoking among those who do. One in five people with the disease are admitted to hospital each year, and half of those with the disease will require surgery for the disease at some point over a ten-year period. While surgery should be used as little as possible, it is necessary to address some abscesses, certain bowel obstructions, and cancers. Checking for bowel cancer via colonoscopy is recommended every few years, starting eight years after the disease has begun. Crohn's disease affects about 3.2 per 1,000 people in Europe and North America. It is less common in Asia and Africa. It has historically been more common in the developed world. Rates have, however, been increasing, particularly in the developing world, since the 1970s. Inflammatory bowel disease resulted in 35,000 deaths in 2010 and those with Crohn's disease have a slightly reduced life expectancy. It tends to start in the teens and twenties, although it can occur at any age. Males and females are equally affected. The disease was named after gastroenterologist Burrill Bernard Crohn, who, in 1932, together with two other colleagues at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, described a series of patients with inflammation of the terminal ileum of the small intestine, the area most commonly affected by the illness.

Signs and symptoms Gastrointestinal Many people with Crohn's disease have symptoms for years prior to the diagnosis. The usual onset is between 15 and 30 years of age, but can occur at any age. Because of the 'patchy' nature of the gastrointestinal disease and the depth of tissue involvement, initial symptoms can be more subtle than those of ulcerative colitis. People with Crohn's disease experience chronic recurring periods of flare-ups and remission. Abdominal pain may be the initial symptom of Crohn's disease usually in the lower right area. It is often accompanied by diarrhea, especially in those who have had surgery. The diarrhea may or may not be bloody. The nature of the diarrhea in Crohn's disease depends on the part of the small intestine or colon involved. Ileitis typically results in large-volume, watery feces. Colitis may result in a smaller volume of feces of higher frequency. Fecal consistency may range from solid to watery. In severe cases, an individual may have more than 20 bowel movements per day and may need to awaken at night to defecate. Visible bleeding in the feces is less common in Crohn's disease than in ulcerative colitis, but may be seen in the setting of Crohn's colitis. Bloody bowel movements typically come and go, and may be bright or dark red in color. In the setting of severe Crohn's colitis, bleeding may be copious.Flatulence and bloating may also add to the intestinal discomfort. Symptoms caused by intestinal stenosis are also common in Crohn's disease. Abdominal pain is often most severe in areas of the bowel with stenoses. Persistent vomiting and nausea may indicate stenosis from small bowel obstruction or disease involving the stomach, pylorus, or duodenum. Although the association is greater in the context of ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease may also be associated with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a type of inflammation of the bile ducts. Perianal discomfort may also be prominent in Crohn's disease. Itchiness or pain around the anus may be suggestive of inflammation, fistulization or abscess around the anal area or anal fissure. Perianal skin tags are also common in Crohn's disease. Fecal incontinence may accompany perianal Crohn's disease. At the opposite end of the gastrointestinal tract, the mouth may be affected by non-healing sores (aphthous ulcers). Rarely, the esophagus, and stomach may be involved in Crohn's disease. These can cause symptoms including difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), upper abdominal pain, and vomiting. Systemic Crohn's disease, like many other chronic, inflammatory diseases, can cause a variety of systemic symptoms. Among children, growth failure is common. Many children are first diagnosed with Crohn's disease based on inability to maintain growth. As it may manifest at the time of the growth spurt in puberty, up to 30% of children with Crohn's disease may have retardation of growth. Fever may also be present, though fevers greater than 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) are uncommon unless there is a complication such as an abscess. Among older individuals, Crohn's disease may manifest as weight loss, usually related to decreased food intake, since individuals with intestinal symptoms from Crohn's disease often feel better when they do not eat and might lose their appetite. People with extensive small intestine disease may also have malabsorption of carbohydrates or lipids, which can further exacerbate weight loss. Extraintestinal In addition to systemic and gastrointestinal involvement, Crohn's disease can affect many other organ systems. Inflammation of the interior portion of the eye, known as uveitis, can cause blurred vision and eye pain, especially when exposed to light (photophobia). Inflammation may also involve the white part of the eye (sclera), a condition called episcleritis. Both episcleritis and uveitis can lead to loss of vision if untreated. Crohn's disease that affects the ileum may result in an increased risk for gallstones. This is due to a decrease in bile acid resorption in the ileum and the bile gets excreted in the stool. As a result, the cholesterol/bile ratio increases in the gallbladder, resulting in an increased risk for gallstones. Crohn's disease is associated with a type of rheumatologic disease known as seronegative spondyloarthropathy. This group of diseases is characterized by inflammation of one or more joints (arthritis) or muscle insertions (enthesitis). The arthritis in Crohn's disease can be divided into two types. The first type affects larger weight-bearing joints such as the knee (most common), hips, shoulders, wrists, or elbows.The second type symmetrically involves five or more of the small joints of the hands and feet. The arthritis may also involve the spine, leading to ankylosing spondylitis if the entire spine is involved or simply sacroiliitis if only the sacroiliac joint is involved. The symptoms of arthritis include painful, warm, swollen, stiff joints, and loss of joint mobility or function. Cause While the exact cause is unknown, Crohn's disease seems to be due to a combination of environmental factors and genetic predisposition. Crohn's is the first genetically complex disease in which the relationship between genetic risk factors and the immune system is understood in considerable detail. Each individual risk mutation makes a small contribution to the overall risk of Crohn's (approximately 1:200). The genetic data, and direct assessment of immunity, indicates a malfunction in the innate immune system. In this view, the chronic inflammation of Crohn's is caused when the adaptive immune system tries to compensate for a deficient innate immune system. Environmental factors The increased incidence of Crohn's in the industrialized world indicates an environmental component. Crohn's is associated with an increased intake of animal protein, milk protein and an increased ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Those who consume vegetable proteins appear to have a lower incidence of Crohn's disease. Consumption of fish protein has no association. Smoking increases the risk of the return of active disease (flares). The introduction of hormonal contraception in the United States in the 1960s is associated with a dramatic increase in incidence, and one hypothesis is that these drugs work on the digestive system in ways similar to smoking. Isotretinoin is associated with Crohn's. Although stress is sometimes claimed to exacerbate Crohn's disease, there is no concrete evidence to support such claim. Dietary microparticles, such as those found in toothpaste, have been studied as they produce effects on immunity, but they were not consumed in greater amounts in patients with Crohn's. Pathophysiology During a colonoscopy, biopsies of the colon are often taken to confirm the diagnosis. Certain characteristic features of the pathology seen point toward Crohn's disease; it shows a transmural pattern of inflammation, meaning the inflammation may span the entire depth of the intestinal wall. Ulceration is an outcome seen in highly active disease. There is usually an abrupt transition between unaffected tissue and the ulcer—a characteristic sign known as skip lesions. Under a microscope, biopsies of the affected colon may show mucosal inflammation, characterized by focal infiltration of neutrophils, a type of inflammatory cell, into the epithelium. This typically occurs in the area overlying lymphoid aggregates. These neutrophils, along with mononuclear cells, may infiltrate the crypts, leading to inflammation (crypititis) or abscess (crypt abscess). Granulomas, aggregates of macrophage derivatives known as giant cells, are found in 50% of cases and are most specific for Crohn's disease. The granulomas of Crohn's disease do not show caseation, a cheese-like appearance on microscopic examination characteristic of granulomas associated with infections, such as tuberculosis. Biopsies may also show chronic mucosal damage, as evidenced by blunting of the intestinal villi, atypical branching of the crypts, and a change in the tissue type (metaplasia). One example of such metaplasia, Paneth cell metaplasia, involves development of Paneth cells (typically found in the small intestine and a key regulator of intestinal microbiota) in other parts of the gastrointestinal system.

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