TUMMY TROUBLES: CROHN’S DISEASE

Q. What is this?

A. It is a disorder of the bowel, commonly of the small intestine but often including the colon. It is named after a New York physician, Dr. Burrill Crohn, of the late 1800s, who first described it, calling it regional ileitis. It is common in western countries and is much like ulcerative colitis, producing similar symptoms and also greatly increasing the patient’s risk of bowel cancer, especially if it starts before the age of 21 years.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. Recurring bouts of pain in the lower abdomen, often worse after meals, loss of weight, diarrhoea, recurring fevers, probably the passage of blood.

Q. How is it diagnosed and treated?

A. The methods for diagnosis include x-rays, the use of the endoscope for the upper small bowel or the colonoscope for the large bowel and taking a biopsy for laboratory confirmation. The bowel is often rigid and thickened and the canal narrowed. Treatment is unsatisfactory and although various drugs such as the corticosteroids, sulfasalazine, azothioprine and others have been used, they are not curative. Surgical treatment may be resorted to if symptoms become intolerable.

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