Who Gets Crohn’s Disease?
Anyone can develop Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. However, IBDs are usually diagnosed in young adults between the ages of 15 and 30. Children are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Crohn’s as ulcerative colitis. Boys develop IBDs at a slightly higher rate than girls.
People who live in higher latitudes are more likely to develop Crohn’s than those in lower latitudes. When relocating from a low-latitude to a high-latitude region, the risk of developing Crohn’s matches that of the high-latitude region within a single generation.
In Crohn’s disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy bacteria in the GI tract. Chronic inflammation causes thickening of the intestinal wall, which triggers the symptoms. The exact reason this occurs is not clear, but there is a hereditary factor. The risk is higher in Crohn’s than ulcerative colitis, and higher when both parents are affected.
There may also be an environmental element. Rates of Crohn’s are higher in developed countries, urban areas, and northern climates. Stress and diet may worsen Crohn’s, but neither is thought to cause the disease. It’s likely that Crohn’s is caused by a combination of factors.
The most common symptoms in Crohn’s disease are those related to the inflammatory damage to the digestive tract.
- Diarrhoea: Waxes and wanes; stool may contain mucus, blood, or pus
- Pain in the abdomen: Crampy or steady; in the right lower part of the abdomen or around the belly button; often relieved temporarily by having a bowel movement
- Bloating after eating: Less common, usually seen in cases of bowel obstruction
- Constipation:Usually seen in cases of bowel obstruction
- Pain or bleeding with bowel movement
- Infection of the urinary tract or vagina: Suggests a fistula from the intestinal tract
General symptoms occur in some but not all cases.
- Low-grade fevers
- Weight loss
Other symptoms of Crohn’s disease may be attributable to related medical conditions affecting the skin, joints, mouth, eyes, liver, and bile ducts.
Crohn’s can lead to fissures, or tears, in the lining of the anus. This can cause bleeding and pain. A common and a serious complication is when inflammation and scar tissue block the intestines. Crohn’s can cause ulcers within the intestines. Another serious complication is the formation of fistulas, abnormal spaces that connect organs within the body. Crohn’s disease may also increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
Living with Crohn’s disease also takes an emotional toll. Embarrassment over bathroom issues can interfere with your social life and your career. It might be helpful to seek counseling or join a support group for people with IBD.
Crohn’s is an expensive disease. About 53 to 67 percent of those costs were from hospitalizations. Costs were higher for patients with more severe disease activity.
Crohn’s disease can be an unbearable illness. However, with medical treatment and other measures used to reduce the discomfort of flares, most people learn to cope with the condition. Almost everyone with Crohn’s disease can live a normal life.