Crohn’s disease may not be as well-known as cancer or heart disease, but it can consume a person’s life just as much, if not more so. Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It most often affects the large and small bowels, though it can wreak havoc on any part of the GI tract.
Here are 14 things doctors want you to know about this disease.
1. There are flare and remission phases
Most people with Crohn’s disease cycle through flare-ups and remissions. Symptoms related to GI inflammation are at their worst during a Crohn’s flare-up. During a remission phase, Crohn’s sufferers feel pretty normal.
Common symptoms of a Crohn’s flare-up include:
- abdominal pain (which typically worsens after meals)
- painful bowel movements
- blood in stool
- weight loss
Crohn’s disease can also manifest in other ways, such as joint pain, eye inflammation, and skin lesions, says Aline Charabaty, M.D., director of the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.
2. More people are diagnosed each year
More than 700,000 Americans have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). That number is continuing to rise.
Immune-mediated diseases in general, including inflammatory bowel diseases and Crohn’s, have increased in recent years, says Charabaty. This increase is mainly seen in industrialized countries.
Men and women are equally affected, and symptoms of the disease can start at any age. However, it most often shows up in adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35.