What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease of unknown cause that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Typically it causes abdominal pain and diarrhoea. The inflammation may affect all layers of the gut wall and any part of the gut from mouth to anus. However, in 50% of cases Crohn’s disease occurs in the last part of the small intestine (the terminal ileum – where the small intestine joins the large intestine). It also often affects the large bowel (colon) and anus. Different and separate areas of the intestines may be affected at the same time in one individual causing a potentially more serious illness.
Crohn’s disease is a potentially serious, long-term condition with a number of debilitating complications affecting the gut and other abdominal organs. Fistulas (abnormal channels or openings) may develop between parts of the diseased intestine and other organs, for example, between the intestine and the bladder, the vagina or externally to the skin. Other complications include abscess formation and narrowing of the intestine (stricture) causing blockage (obstruction) of the gut. If large segments of the gut become diseased, or removed at operation, the person may be unable to absorb sufficient nutrients from their food and develop malabsorption.
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Amended April 2008