Crohn’s disease, also known as regional enteritis, is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus, causing a wide variety of symptoms. It primarily causes abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody if inflammation is at its worst), vomiting (can be continuous), or weight loss, but may also cause complications outside the gastrointestinal tract such as skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, tiredness, and lack of concentration.
Crohn’s disease is caused by interactions between environmental, immunological and bacterial factors in genetically susceptible individuals. This results in a chronic inflammatory disorder, in which the body’s immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract possibly directed at microbial antigens.
Crohn’s disease has traditionally been described as an autoimmune disease, but recent investigators have described it as a disease of immune deficiency.
There is a genetic association with Crohn’s disease, primarily with variations of the NOD2 gene and its protein, which senses bacterial cell walls. Siblings of affected individuals are at higher risk. Males and females are equally affected. Smokers are two times more likely to develop Crohn’s disease than nonsmokers. Crohn’s disease affects between our hundred thousand and six hundred thousand people in North America. Prevalence estimates for Northern Europe have ranged from twenty seven to forty eight per one hundred thousand. Crohn’s disease tends to present initially in the teens and twenties, with another peak incidence in the fifties to seventies, although the disease can occur at any age.
There is no known pharmaceutical or surgical cure for Crohn’s disease. Treatment options are restricted to controlling symptoms, maintaining remission, and preventing relapse.
The disease was named after American gastroenterologist Burrill Bernard Crohn, who, in 1932, together with two colleagues, described a series of patients with inflammation of the terminal ileum, the area most commonly affected by the illness.