human intestine with symptoms of inflammation (Source: Shutterstock)
Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammation that can affect the entire digestive tract. The cause is unclear - it is possible that genetic and immunological factors are responsible. Crohn's disease is an incurable autoimmune disease.
Younger adults in particular are affected by this intestinal disease. The first manifestation is usually observed between the ages of 15 and 35. Men and women fall ill equally frequently; smokers are affected twice as often. Crohn's disease can considerably impair quality of life and the ability to work.
Diarrhoea three to six times a day (rarely bloody) is symptomatic, as are intestinal cramps and the loss of mucus. Crohn's disease is also characterized by pain, sometimes similar to appendicitis. Fever, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting can also occur. In children, delayed growth may be the only symptom. Fistulas or anal abscesses can also be caused by Crohn's disease. The disease usually progresses intermittently - but without healing properly.
Further complications may occur. These include stenoses (constrictions in the intestine caused by scars or tumours resulting from inflammation), fistula formation, abscesses, deficiency symptoms caused by impaired metabolism of food and, in rare cases, intestinal ruptures. Gallstones and urinary stones also favour the disease. Crohn's disease is considered a possible cause of intestinal cancer.