Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of chronic disorders that cause inflammation or ulceration in the small and large intestines. Most often IBD is classified as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease but may be referred to as colitis, enteritis, ileitis, and proctitis. Ulcerative colitis causes ulceration and inflammation of the inner lining of a couple of really bad places, while Crohn's disease is an inflammation that extends into the deeper layers of the intestinal wall. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease cause similar symptoms that often resemble other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colitis). The correct diagnosis may take some time. Crohn's disease usually involves the small intestine, most often the lower part (the ileum). In some cases, both the small and large intestine (those really bad places again) are affected. In other cases, only the SUPER really bad place is involved. Sometimes, inflammation also may affect the mouth, esophagus, stomach, duodenum, appendix, or some nasty sounding word.
Crohn's disease is a chronic condition and may recur at various times over a lifetime. Some people have long periods of remission, sometimes for years, when they are free of symptoms. There is no way to predict when a remission may occur or when symptoms will return.
The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease are abdominal pain, often in the lower right area, and diarrhea. There also may be rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fever. Bleeding may be serious and persistent, leading to anemia (low red blood cell count). Children may suffer delayed development and stunted growth.
What Causes Crohn's Disease and Who Gets It?
There are many theories about what causes Crohn's disease, but none has been proven. One theory is that some agent, perhaps a virus, affects the body's immune system to trigger an inflammatory...