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Understanding Crohn's Disease: January 10, 2011

The symptoms can come on gradually or on suddenly without warning: abdominal cramping, fever, even fatigue. The pain is often indescribable.

“Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel problem and it’s one of the several types that occur, but Crohn’s specifically, is a chronic inflammation of the intestine,” explains Dr. Brian Longendyke, a gastroenterologist on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is still unknown. But if it goes undiagnosed, multiple problems can surface. “It causes inflammation, adema, it can cause ulcerations to form and as those things worsen, you can get bleeding, you can get diarrhea problems, if the problem goes untreated, you can eventually get scarring, bowel obstructions.”

Researchers have also found that smoking can make the problem worse. “We don’t fully understand how smoking actually causes Crohn’s disease,” says Dr. Longendyke. “We do find that if you have Crohn’s, smoking certainly can accelerate the disease and can make it more intense and difficult to treat.”

Scientists are currently looking at hereditary factors when it comes to Crohn’s disease. Until and exact cuase and cure are found, gastroenterologists are looking at different things to treat it. “Right now, there’s several types of medications we use, depending no the severity of the disease, where it’s located. Some things are medications we give orally, some newer products that are given intravenously.”

Physicians may also suggest certain dietary changes to help patients keep the disease under control.