Thursday, 8 March 2012

Two minutes on.. Crohn's disease

What is it?

Crohn's disease is a rare, long-term ­inflammation of the digestive tract, ­especially the small intestine.

Diarrhoea, pain, fever and weight loss are all common symptoms.

Crohn's disease usually manifests ­itself in sufferers ­between the ages of ­15 and 30 and it can sometimes run in ­families, ­suggesting there may be a ­genetic component to its development. Smoking is a known risk factor.

What are the symptoms?


Abdominal pain


Weight loss

General feeling of malaise

About 10% develop other conditions linked with Crohn's, including a form of arthritis known as ankylosing ­spondylitis, kidney stones, gallstones and a rash called erythema nodosum.

What's the treatment?

Mild attacks of Crohn's disease may be treated with antidiarrhoeal drugs and painkillers.

For an acute attack, your doctor may prescribe oral steroids. As soon as symptoms subside, the dosage will be reduced to avoid the risk of triggering any side effects.

If your symptoms are very severe, you may need hospital treatment with ­intravenous corticosteroids.

In all cases, once the dosage of ­corticosteroids has been reduced, your doctor may recommend oral ­sulphasalazine or mesalamine to ­prevent recurrences.

An immunosuppressant drug, such as azathioprine, is sometimes considered.

You may also require dietary ­supplements, such as vitamins, to ­counteract malabsorption.

During severe attacks, you may need to be fed nutrients directly into a vein.

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