At the origin of digestive diseases, Crohn’s disease is sometimes confused with other inflammatory pathologies. A misinterpretation that can contribute to the build-up of major nutritional deficiencies, even to serious complications.
Crohn’s disease is one of two types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), along with ulcerative colitis. This pathology, which was described in 1932 by the American surgeon Burrill B. Crohn, is likely to affect the entire digestive tract – from the mouth to the anus – although the ileum and colon are most often affected. In France, it affects 1 person in 1,000 with an annual incidence rate of 5 to 10 new cases per year. 100,000 inhabitants (1). Evolving in the form of outbreaks of variable intensity and whose frequency remains undetermined, the disease is characterized by inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, which in the long term can cause ulcerations, lesions, fistulas or stenosis (narrowing of the tube).
A disease that is not always easy to detect
The importance of early detection of the pathology is therefore essential to limit its consequences, but is still quite difficult to achieve due to the lack of characteristic clinical symptoms. This is the reason why many patients go through a more or less long diagnostic journey that can potentially have a significant impact on their quality of life. Nevertheless, IBD is better and better identified by the medical profession, who have been widely aware and informed about this problem for several years. What about the general public? It is actually difficult to distinguish chronic inflammation from gastroenteritis, appendicitis or functional colopathy.
Clues not to be overlooked
In addition to digestive symptoms (spasms, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea), Crohn’s disease can manifest itself through extra-digestive symptoms: articular arthritis, dermatological damage, eye disorders, etc. This type of association is quite symptomatic in connection with IBD. But other elements are warning signs. This is especially the case with family history. In fact, the presence of a loved one affected by this type of digestive pathology represents a reason for additional attention. In addition, the cyclical and recurring nature of the digestive symptoms should be cause for concern. Age is also an index to be taken into account, since the highest incidence of IBD is between 17 and 35 years, although Crohn’s disease can also affect – more rarely – children and the elderly.
You may also be interested in:
⋙ Crohn’s disease: causes, symptoms, treatment, prevention
⋙ Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis: living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
⋙ What happens when our intestinal flora goes wrong?