Crohn's Disease - Description

The term inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) refers to a large group of disorders that affect the gastrointestinal (digestive) system. The gastrointestinal (GI) system includes the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. For reasons that are still not understood, portions of the GI system sometimes become inflamed. Researchers think that the body's immune system may sometimes cause this inflammation. It attacks the lining of the GI system the way it normally attacks invading foreign bodies.

Two of the most important of these disorders are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (see ulcerative colitis entry). These disorders differ from each other in two primary ways:

  • The inflammation caused by Crohn's disease may occur in patches separated from each other on the GI lining. Ulcerative colitis produces one large area of inflammation.
  • The inflammation of Crohn's disease can penetrate deep into the wall of the intestine. Ulcerative colitis affects only the lining of the intestine.

Crohn's disease can affect people of all ages and both sexes. It occurs most commonly in individuals between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five. About 2 to 4 out of 10,000 people develop the condition. Crohn's disease occurs more commonly among whites, especially people of Jewish ancestry. Crohn's disease is a chronic (ongoing) disorder. Its symptoms may improve, but a person is never completely cured.

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