Crohn’s disease (also known as regional enteritis) is a chronic, episodic, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and is generally classified as an autoimmune disease. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus  as a result, the symptoms of Crohn’s disease vary among afflicted individuals. The disease is characterized by areas of inflammation with areas of normal lining between in a symptom known as skip lesions. The main gastrointestinal symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody, though this may not be visible to the naked eye), constipation, vomiting, weight loss or weight gain.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease are abdominal pain, often in the lower right area, and diarrhea. Rectal bleeding, weight loss, arthritis, skin problems, and fever may also occur. Bleeding may be serious and persistent, leading to anemia. Children with Crohn’s disease may suffer delayed development and stunted growth. The range and severity of symptoms varies.

Blood in your stool. Food moving through your digestive tract can cause inflamed tissue to bleed, or your bowel may also bleed on its own.

What causes Crohn’s disease?

The cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown. Some scientists suspect that infection by certain bacteria, such as strains of mycobacterium, may be the cause of Crohn’s disease. To date, however, there has been no convincing evidence that the disease is caused by infection. Crohn’s disease is not contagious.

The body’s immune system, which protects it against many different infections, is known to be a factor. There are still a number of unknowns about the cause of the disease. Fortunately, a great deal is known about the disease and especially its treatment.

Treatment of Crohn’s disease

Biologic therapies.  In August 1998, the FDA approved the first biologic therapy for Crohn’s disease. This was infliximab (Remicade®), which is indicated for moderately to severely active Crohn’s in patients who have not responded adequately to conventional therapy.

Crohn’s disease makes it hard for your body to absorb nutrients from food. A meal plan that focuses on high-calorie, high-protein foods can help you get the nutrients you need. Eating this way may be easier if you have regular meals plus two or three snacks each day.

Steroids are generally used for people who have more severe disease. In more aggressive disease, steroids may be used with immunosuppressants or with a newer medicine called infliximab (brand name: Remicade). If you have very severe Crohn’s disease, you may need to stay in the hospital. Sometimes surgery is needed, but it cannot cure the disease.

Drug Therapy

Drugs are used to suppress the inflammatory response associated with Crohn’s disease, which in turn helps the intestines to heal and relieves symptoms. Once symptoms are under control, medications are used to decrease the frequency of flare-ups and prevent symptoms from recurring. There are several types of drugs available to treat Crohn’s disease including aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immune modifiers and biologic therapy.