At the origin of digestive disorders, Crohn’s disease is sometimes confused with other inflammatory pathologies. A misinterpretation that can contribute to the constitution 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. Described in 1932 by the American surgeon Burrill B. Crohn, this pathology is likely to affect the entire digestive tract – from the mouth to the anus – even if the ileum and the colon are most often affected. In France, it affects 1 person in 1,000 for an annual incidence rate of 5 to 10 new cases per 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 not always easy to detect
The importance of early detection of the pathology is therefore essential to limit its consequences, but remains however quite difficult to achieve due to the lack of characteristic clinical symptoms. This is the reason why many patients undergo a more or less long diagnostic wandering that can potentially have a significant impact on their quality of life. Nevertheless, IBD are better and better identified by the medical profession, who have been widely aware and informed about this issue for several years. What about the general public? Difficult, in fact, to differentiate 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 extradigestive signs: articular rheumatism, dermatological damage, eye disorders, etc. This type of association is quite symptomatic in the context of IBD . But other elements are warning signs. This is particularly the case with family history. Indeed, the presence of a loved one affected by this type of digestive pathology represents a reason for additional attention. In addition, the cyclical and recurrent nature of the digestive symptoms should be of concern. Age is also an index to take into account since the peak incidence of IBD is between 17 and 35 years old even if Crohn’s disease can also affect – more rarely – children and the elderly.
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⋙ 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?