Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease bowel disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract. There are two types of inflammatory bowel disease, these are
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
Ulcerative colitis affects the rectum of the colon, but on the hand, Crohn’s disease is capable of affecting any part of the digestive system, from the mouth cavity to the anus. The presentations of Crohn’s disease include abdominal pain, fatigue, fever, diarrhea and so. Extra-gastrointestinal presentations include anemia, uveitis, rashes and so on. Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the entire tissue of the gastrointestinal tract. The cause of this disease is not known, but some factors have been identified to contribute largely to the development of this disease. Some of these factors include genetics, immune system environmental factors, and infections. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease in which the body T cells attack the tissues and cells of the gastrointestinal tract. However, there have been arguments on whether it qualifies to be called an auto-immune disease. Some people believe that it might just be an offshoot of immunodeficiency state. Smoking increases the risk of having this disease, unlike Ulcerative colitis, where smoking reduces the chances of having the disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
Most of the symptoms of Crohn’s disease are in the gastrointestinal tract, however, it also has some extra-gastrointestinal manifestations.
Gastrointestinal system: Crohn’s disease is a chronic disease, so people usually start showing symptoms many years before the disease is diagnosed. This disease occurs most often in people between the ages of fifteen to thirty, however, it can happen at any age. The early symptoms of this disease might be subtle when compared to Ulcerative colitis. The early presentations of this disease include conditions such as abdominal pain and diarrhea. Diarrhea may or might not be stained with blood. This largely depends on the area of the gastrointestinal tract that is affected. When Crohn’s disease affects the ileum, patients do present with a large quantity of watery excrement, while on the other hand, the inflammation of the colon may lead to just a small amount of feces but of more frequency. Crohn’s disease might be so severe, that patients would need to defecate more than twenty times in a day. Ulcerative colitis is more associated with bloody stool than Crohn’s disease. This can be attributed to the surface ulceration that occurs in Ulcerative colitis, but Crohn’s disease, on the other hand, is transmural. It has also been observed that intestinal stenosis does occur in this disease. Usually, the area of the gastrointestinal tract, that experiences the most pain might be affected by stenosis. An anal fistula is also a complication of this disease. There are some uncommon symptoms that accompany Crohn’s disease. Some of them are aphthous ulcer of the mouth, difficulty in swallowing and so on.
Systemic symptoms: Crohn disease apart from the gastrointestinal tract, also affects other systems. Children affected by this disease might experience stunted growth. According to statistics, about thirty percent of children affected by this disease experience growth retardation. Adults might present with weight loss, largely due to the pain they experience when eating. This discourages them from eating, and this might take a toll on their weight and wellbeing if done for a long time.
Extra-gastrointestinal tract symptoms
Crohn’s disease, apart from the gastrointestinal tract, also affects other body systems.
Eyes: It affects the eyes, and could lead to uveitis. Patients also complain of photophobia. In addition to this, they might be the inflammation of the sclera. If these conditions are left untreated, the patient might eventually end up losing his vision completely.
Cholelithiasis: Crohn’s disease can increase the formation of gallstones. This can be attributed to the reduction in the rate of bile acid reabsorption in the small intestine. These bile acids are eventually passed out in feces. However, due to the high ratio of cholesterol to bile, the formation of bile is increased, leading to the formation of gallstones.
Musculoskeletal diseases: Crohn’s disease could lead to the development of some joint diseases. It is associated with a particular type of joint disease known as the seronegative joint diseases, which include diseases such ankylosing spondylitis. Other conditions might involve the different joints of the body, like the knee, wrist, shoulder joints and so on.
Endocrine system: Crohn’s disease also affects the endocrine system, and cause conditions such as thyroid dysfunction.
In addition, some other systems of this disease are clubbing, and anemia. Patients usually have iron deficiency anemia, and also macrocytic anemia. Examples of macrocytic anemia are Vitamin b12 and folate deficiency.
Causes of Crohn’s disease
The cause of Crohn’s disease is not exactly known. However, many years of studies and research has pointed that this disease is a combination of factors, such as genetics and environmental factors. Other factors include infections
- Genetics: It has been observed that people who have relatives that have suffered from Crohn’s disease have higher chances of having the disease. In fact, they are about thirty times more prone to having Crohn’s disease. Some genes have been identified to be the cause of this disease.
- Infections: Some microorganisms have been implicated to be factors in the development of Crohn’s disease. Some microbes are usually present in intestines affected by the disease. Some of these microbes include Mycobacterium avium and Listeria.
- Immune system: It has always been a popular notion that Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease. However, recent studies have indicated that the disease might be as a result of a dysfunctional innate immunity.
- Environmental factors: This disease is more predominant in people who consume a lot of protein and dairy products, while those who consume more fibers and vegetables have fewer chances of having the disease.
Stem Cell Therapy of Crohn’s Disease
This disease is not easy to treat, as it often presents with some multi-systemic symptoms. However, stem cells have the ability to repair and regenerate the cells and tissues damaged by this disease. Stem cell therapy has a huge potential, especially in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. Mesenchymal cells are used in the treatment of this disease because of their ability to locate damaged tissues and cells in the body and perform repair functions on them. It is a safe and painless procedure with low risk and side effects.
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