What Is Crohn's Disease?

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According to Mayo Clinic, Crohn's disease is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation to form in the digestive tract of affected patients. The inflammation can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue and malnutrition. The inflammation can also spread into the deeper tissues of the digestive system and cause extreme pain and complications throughout the entire bowel.

Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disease that has many episodes of flare-ups, explains Mayo Clinic. During a flare-up, patients become symptomatic, and their symptoms can range from mild to severe. Symptoms tend to develop gradually as the inflammation spreads throughout parts of the small and large intestines. Only one part of the intestines is infected in the majority of patients with this disease. The most common portion of the intestines that is affected is the ileum of the small intestine; however the colon is also affected in many cases.

In addition to symptoms in the digestive system, some patients also experience wide-spread inflammation that affects their skin, eyes, joints, liver and bile ducts, notes Mayo Clinic. In children affected by the disease, delayed growth may be noted.

Treatment for Crohn's disease often involves drug therapy or surgery. There is no current cure for the disease, but there are many medical interventions that can reduce inflammation in the bowel and reduce the number of flare-ups, states Mayo Clinic.