Crohn’s disease is one of the inflammatory bowel diseases. As you know already, as we talked, inflammatory bowel disease is an autoimmune illness of the intestine where the body’s immune system goes and attacks the intestine and creates ulcerations. The difference between Crohn’s disease and some of the other forms of inflammatory bowel disease are as follows:
Crohn’s disease can involve any part of the digestive tract. That means that it can involve anywhere from the mouth all the way down to the rectum and around the anus, and usually the involvement with Crohn’s disease tends to be patchy, meaning when the disease starts, it doesn’t involve the entire gastrointestinal tract or the digestive tract. It involves parts of it, and there are intervening parts that look normal.
In addition to that, Crohn’s disease typically involves the entire layer of the intestinal wall. The intestinal wall has four layers, and it typically starts for most people from the inner lining that we call the mucosa, and then it can penetrate through the entire wall of the intestine, and sometimes when it does penetrate through the entire wall of the intestine, it can lead to infectious collections that we call abscesses.
It can lead to communications between the intestine and other organs which we call fistulas. And sometimes because it involves the entire length of the wall of the intestine, it can also lead to narrowings or fibrosis or scarring through the wall, which would lead to strictures or narrowings in the wall of the intestine, which sometimes can lead to intestinal blockages.
So overall, Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune illness which has a typical feature that I tried to illustrate for you, and it has several types of complications besides the inflammation that is seen in the intestine such as abscesses, fistulas, and strictures.
About Dr. Mutlu, M.D.:
Dr. Ece A. Mutlu, M.D., is Associate Professor of Medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in gastroenterology and nutrition, and her research interests include diet therapy in inflammatory bowel disease, role of microbiological flora on gastrointestinal illness, role of nutrition in gastrointestinal disease, complementary and alternative medicine for gastrointestinal disease, and antioxidant treatment of radiation proctitis.