The 5 Types of Crohn’s Disease
What causes Crohn's disease?
The cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. It is likely that Crohn's is at least partially an inherited disease that causes an abnormal response of the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract.
Recently, the first gene associated with Crohn's disease was identified. This gene is called the NOD2 or CARD15 gene. Abnormalities in this gene are found in up to one out of every five patients with Crohn's disease. Since then, at least 104 different genetic abnormalities have been shown to be associated with Crohn’s disease.
People who have a relative with Crohn's disease are 10 times more likely to develop the disease themselves. If the affected relative is a sibling, the risk jumps to 30 times more likely to develop Crohn's disease. Jewish people of European descent also have a greater risk for developing Crohn's disease.
How is Crohn's disease treated?
Treatment for Crohn's disease depends on the type and how severe the disease is. Because the disease can sometimes go into remission on its own, it is not always possible to determine whether a specific treatment has been effective. When Crohn's disease is active, treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms, controlling inflammation, and correcting nutritional deficiencies.
Medications are generally the first step in treating Crohn's disease. Some of these medications include anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, corticosteroids, antidiarrheals, and immune-suppressing medications. For those patients experiencing nutritional deficiencies, supplements are often prescribed.
Even though surgery cannot cure Crohn's disease, it is sometimes needed for patients whose symptoms do not respond to medications. Surgery can be performed to correct perforations, blockages, or bleeding in the intestine. Unfortunately, Crohn's disease often returns to the area next to where the inflamed part was removed. It is therefore important that you discuss with your doctor all possible options before deciding upon surgery.
What can I do to manage Crohn's disease?
In managing Crohn's disease, it is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is important even when the disease goes into remission for long periods of time. You can maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. Abstaining from smoking can also help prevent symptoms from recurring. Studies have shown that smokers are at a higher risk of developing Crohn's disease than nonsmokers, and the smokers with Crohn's tend to have a more severe course than nonsmokers with Crohn's. People with Crohn's disease are usually able to lead healthy and active lifestyles.
Like many other disorders, understanding and being educated about Crohn's disease are the most important tools with which to manage it and prevent complications. The following organizations can provide more information about Crohn's disease:
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America
386 Park Avenue South, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10016
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
2 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892