Living Daily with Crohns Disease
What Really Is Crohns Disease?
When I first began personal research into what exactly Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and specifically Crohns Disease, was, I was bombarded with technical information about inflammatory markers, the effects of fistulas and "informative" pictures of someone's intestines.
As you can well believe, I was more than a little floundered by this sudden wealth of information. Being only a simple high-school student, I couldn't understand half of what this medical jargon was talking about. I love what's known as "layman's terms": a nice, concise and easy explanation of something that, without "dumbing down", would honestly fry your brain to listen to. Unless you're a rocket scientist.
What Is This Despicable Disease?
Crohns Disease, or regional enteritis, is a form of what is known as IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (this isn't to be confused with IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Crohns is a chronic disease which can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. Because this is what's known as a "chronic condition", the disease is ongoing and will last for the rest of the person's life. Which is just delightful. However, on a more positive note, there are often periods of remission where the disease isn't active, and some lucky people experience no symptoms whatsoever.
There are many symptoms associated with Crohns Disease which occur within the digestive tract, although symptoms not directly associated with this tract are very common:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Heightened fever
- Extremely frequent diarrhea which can be bloody or contain mucus
- Weight loss due to lack of appetite
- Inflammation of the eye (Uveitis - bleugh)
- Chronic fatigue
- Mouth ulcers
Crohns commonly occurs within the end of the ileum: this is where the small intestine joins the large intestine. This disease will be "patchy" in that there will be certain areas where the gut will be unaffected. Problems generally arise when, like me, there is inflammation in the small intestine: it sounds awful, but when the large bowel becomes too inflamed it can be removed, whereas only minute sections of the small bowel can be removed as it is so necessary to the human digestive system.
Who Gets Crohns? And Why?
According to a survey completed by the UK Crohns and Colitis Organisation, Crohns affects approximately 115,000 people in the UK, with millions more affected worldwide. This disease is more common in urban areas throughout northern developed countries: unfortunately, it is on the increase in developing countries. It is more likely to appear in white people of European descent, and more commonly appears in younger members of the community.
Despite ongoing research, there are still no certain causes as to why only some members of the population suffer from Crohns. However, over recent years, major advances have been made in the scientific community, particularly in human genetics. Researchers now believe there may be an amalgamation of possible causes that result in the presence of Crohns Disease:
- Genes that sufferers carry from birth
- An abnormal reaction in the immune system to normal bacteria in the gut
- An unknown trigger which could include viruses, diet, smoking, bacteria, stress or another environmental factor.