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Crohn's disease is one of the two major types of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD (ulcerative colitis is the second major form of IBD). Crohn's disease can cause sores, or ulcers, and other permanent changes in the tissue of the digestive tract. Unlike ulcerative colitis which occurs only in the colon and rectum, Crohn's disease can occur anywhere in the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus.
Crohn's disease causes symptoms that are similar to ulcerative colitis, including:
unintentional weight loss
increased urgency to move the bowels
Symptoms are often chronic, but they can also be triggered by factors like hormonal changes, illness, infection or even smoking.
The cause of Crohn's disease hasn't been definitively identified, but researchers believe the condition develops when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue of the digestive tract. People with a family history of Crohn's disease are more likely to develop the condition themselves, and some research has shown evidence of a possible link between the disease and come types of viral infections.
Diagnosis begins with a physical examination and a discussion of your symptoms, followed by lab work and diagnostic testing, which may include a colonoscopy or endoscopy, or both. During these procedures, tiny tissue samples may be taken for further evaluation. Barium x-rays and stool samples may also be ordered.
Treatment typically involves medication to help control pain and other symptoms and to reduce inflammation. Since Crohn's disease can interfere with absorption of important nutrients, nutritional supplements may also be prescribed. Joining a support group can often be beneficial in helping men and women cope with this chronic condition.
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