Crohn’s disease is a chronic, recurrent inflammatory disease of the intestinal tract. The intestinal tract has four major parts: the esophagus, or food tube; the stomach, where food is churned and digested; the long, small bowel, where nutrients, calories, and vitamins are absorbed; and the colon and rectum, where water is absorbed and stool is stored. The two primary sites for Crohn’s disease are the ileum, which is the last portion of the small bowel (ileitis, regional enteritis), and the colon (Crohn’s colitis). The condition begins as small, microscopic nests of inflammation which persist and smolder. The lining of the bowel can then become ulcerated and the bowel wall thickened. Eventually, the bowel may become narrowed or obstructed and surgery would be needed.
Archive for October, 2006
Because Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the intestine, symptoms may vary greatly from patient to patient. Common symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, weight loss, and bloating. Not all patients experience all of these symptoms, and some may experience none of them. Other symptoms may include anal pain or drainage, skin lesions, rectal abscess, fissure, and joint pain (arthritis).
Common Crohn’s symptoms:
- Cramping – abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Anal pain or drainage
- Skin lesions
- Rectal abscess
- Joint pain
There are five subtypes of Crohn’s disease, distinguished by the gastrointestinal area in which the disease occurs. While Crohn’s disease lesions can appear anywhere in the digestive tract, lesions rarely occur in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach unless there are also lesions in the lower parts of the tract (intestines).
Gastroduodenal CD – Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease affects the stomach and the duodenum. Symptoms of gastroduodenal CD include loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, pain in the upper middle of the abdomen, and vomiting.
Jejunoileitis – Jejunoileitis is Crohn’s disease of the jejunum. Symptoms include mild to intense abdominal pain and cramps after meals, diarrhea, and malnutrition caused by malabsorption of nutrients.
Ileitis – Ileitis affects the ileum. Symptoms include diarrhea and cramping or pain in the right lower quadrant and periumbilical area, especially after meals. Malabsorption of vitamin B12 can lead to tingling in the fingers or toes. Folate deficiency can hinder the development of red blood cells, putting the patient at higher risk of developing anemia. Fistulas can develop, as can inflammatory masses.
Ileocolitis – Ileocolitis is the most common type of Crohn’s disease. It affects the ileum and the colon. Often, the diseased area of the colon is continuous with the diseased ileum, and therefore involves the ileocecal valve between the ileum and the colon. In some cases, however, areas of the colon not contiguous with the ileum are involved. Symptoms of ileocolitis are essentially the same as those present in ileitis. Weight loss is also common.
Crohn’s Colitis (Granulomatous Colitis ) – Crohn’s colitis affects the colon. It is distinguished from ulcerative colitis in two ways. First, there are often areas of healthy tissue between areas of diseased tissue; ulcerative colitis is always continuous. Second, while ulcerative colitis always affects the rectum and areas of the colon beyond the rectum, Crohn’s colitis can spare the rectum, appearing only in the colon.
Researchers have not yet identified the cause of Crohn’s disease, so it is described as an “idiopathic” disease. It is known that inflammation is part of the body’s immune response, and an immune response is usually triggered by something. But to date no specific “trigger” has been found to cause the inflammatory response seen in Crohn’s disease.
There is some evidence that Crohn’s disease has a genetic component. While there is no simple correlation from parent(s) to offspring, the disease tends to “run” in families. As many as 20 to 25 percent of patients with Crohn’s disease have a relative with CD or ulcerative colitis. There is also a higher incidence among certain ethnic groups.
In addition, some possible environmental factors have been linked to initial episodes or relapses. Crohn’s disease appears to be a disease that primarily affects those living in Western, industrialized societies. Whether this is due to some condition of the environment in which people live or their diet has not been determined.
People with Crohn’s disease are seen regularly by a specialist team who manage their treatment. Although there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, symptoms can be improved with dietary changes, drugs or surgery, or a combination of these.
Drug treatment is effective for many patients and the disease may respond quickly to medication.
Medicines that reduce inflammation, such as steroids (eg prednisolone) and aminosalicylates (eg sulfasalazine).
Medicines that suppress the immune system (eg azathioprine) may be needed for more serious bouts of the illness. A new drug called infliximab may be used to treat severe Crohn’s disease that does not respond to other drugs.
Anti-diarrhoea medicines, antibiotics and painkillers may be useful during flare-ups.
An elemental diet may be recommended when the disease is active. An elemental diet is a liquid diet, made up of simple forms of protein, carbohydrates and fats. These can be absorbed without further digestion, and can cause a remission of the illness.
When there are complications, other special diets may be advised. For example, if there is narrowing of the bowel, a low residue diet (low in fibre) may be recommended. When food is not being absorbed well, a low fat diet may be recommended.
Short periods of parenteral feeding (through a route other than the mouth, usually by injection into a vein) in hospital may be needed for people with major complications.
For the rest of the time, it is important for people with Crohn’s disease to eat a balanced diet with a high fibre content.
Vitamin and iron supplements are often necessary as these nutrients may not be properly absorbed from the bowel.
Many people with Crohn’s disease require surgical treatment at some time to treat complications such as anal abscesses, or fistulae, to remove areas of narrowed, non-functioning bowel, or when drugs are not controlling the disease.
Surgery aims to remove the least amount of bowel possible and the operation trying to expand narrowed segments, rather than just remove them.
Sometimes an ileostomy is needed. This is when the small bowel is separated from the large bowel and the end of the small intestine is brought out at the skin surface. The faeces are collected in a specially designed bag that fits securely over the skin site. This is not necessarily a permanent procedure but may be used to rest the large bowel while it is intensively treated. The small and large bowel can then be rejoined. A long period of remission can follow.
Women may be less fertile during periods of active disease and at these times may also have an increased risk of miscarriage, but otherwise there is no connection between the disease and problems with pregnancy.
Depression is a psychological condition that changes how you think and feel, and also affects your social behavior and sense of physical well-being. We have all felt sad at one time or another, but that is not depression. Sometimes we feel tired from working hard, or discouraged when faced with serious problems. This too, is not depression. These feelings usually pass within a few days or weeks, once we adjust to the stress. But, if these feelings linger, intensify, and begin to interfere with work, school or family responsibilities, it may be depression.
Depression can affect anyone. Once identified, most people diagnosed with depression are successfully treated. Unfortunately, depression is not always diagnosed, because many of the symptoms mimic physical illness, such as sleep and appetite disturbances. Recognizing depression is the first step in treating it.
A cold begins when a cold virus enters the body. Your immune system sends white blood cells out to attack this germ. Unless you’ve encountered it before, the initial attack fails and your body sends in reinforcements. Your nose and throat get inflamed and produce lots of mucus. With so much of your energy directed at fighting the virus, you feel tired and miserable.
The Flu is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the influenza virus. There are three types of influenza virus: A, B, and C.
Types A and B are the most severe. The viruses change constantly and different strains circulate around the world every year. The body’s natural defenses cannot keep up with these changes. Therefore, a person should get a flu shot each year.
Type C causes either a very mild illness, or has no symptoms at all. It does not cause epidemics and does not have the severe public health impact that influenza types A and B do.
Colds and flu are caused by viruses. The infections are contagious, passed on by tiny droplets and hand contact.
There are hundreds of different types of virus that can cause a cold, which explains why children get repeated colds.
Flu is caused by the influenza virus. There are three major types: A (often the cause of flu epidemics), B and C. The flu virus is constantly changing its structure, so new strains appear each year. We don’t have immunity to the new strains, which is why we can catch flu repeatedly.
Symptoms of cold and flu are as under:
The virus multiplies in the soft, warm surfaces found in the nose, throat, sinuses, the windpipe (trachea) and the breathing tubes (the bronchi). Consequently, it is these areas where the symptoms usually occur. Typically, there is a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and a cough. There may also be a fever, aching muscles and fatigue. The symptoms usually last for a week.
The symptoms are similar to colds but the muscle aching is usually more severe and the fatigue may last for a few weeks after the illness has cleared up. There is likely to be a fever and there may also be loss of appetite, nausea and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea, especially in children.
Most colds don’t last long and need no specific treatment other than pain-relieving syrup and simple measures such as decongestant rubs or vaporisers. Antibiotics are of no benefit. Zinc supplements may help to settle a cold faster.
Children with flu can be given similar treatments, with lots of rest, sponging with tepid water to bring down a fever and plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Specific antiviral treatments for the flu are now available, but generally these are only given to those at high risk of flu complications
Although the flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses. Because they have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell them apart. But generally cold symptoms are much milder than flu.
Common cold symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Mild fever
The flu, on the other hand, often causes higher fever, chills, body ache, and fatigue.
The menopause, also called the change of life, is defined as the end of the last menstrual period. It occurs on average at 51 years, but there is a wide range of normal extending from your 30s to 60s.
The menopause occurs when the ovaries no longer respond to the controlling hormones released by the pituitary gland of the brain. As a result, the ovaries fail to release an egg each month and to produce the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
It is the fall in the levels of these hormones in the bloodstream that gives rise to the symptoms of menopause.
There are many possible signs of menopause and each woman feels them differently. Most women have no or few menopausal symptoms while some women have many moderate or severe symptoms.
The clearest signs of the start of menopause are irregular periods (when periods come closer together or further apart), and when blood flow becomes lighter or heavier.
Other signs may include some of the following:
- Weight gain
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Joint pain
- Short-term memory problems
- Bowel upset
- Dry eyes
- Itchy skin
- Mood swings
- Urinary tract infections
There are telltale symptoms, such as changes in menstrual pattern and the onset of hot flashes, which offer diagnostic clues.
Menopause is suspected when there is a long interval without periods in a woman around the age of 50, particularly if a woman has hot flashes or a low estrogen profile. The low estrogen profile can be discovered during a physical examination by means of an atrophic vaginal smear, the absence of vaginal mucus, or an atrophic endometrium (diagnosed by a biopsy).
Menopause is not a disease that has a definitive cure or treatment. Health care providers, however, can offer a variety of treatments for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms that become bothersome. Many prescription medications exist to prevent and control high cholesterol and bone loss, which can occur at menopause. Some women do not need therapy, or they may choose not to take medications at all during their menopausal years.
- Reduces drying and thinning of vaginal tissue
- Prevents osteoporosis
- Eliminates hot flashes in some women
- Improves energy, mood, and sense of well-being
- Improves levels of “good” cholesterol
- May restore sexual desire
- May reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- May reduce the risk of colorectal cancer
- May improve concentration and memory
- May cause symptoms like PMS
- May increase risk for breast cancer
- May have other undesirable side effects,
- Decreases insomnia including – vaginal bleeding, bloating, nausea, loss of hair, headaches, itching, increased cervical mucus, and corneal changes that prevent the use of contact lenses
- May increase the risk of heart disease in certain women
Malaria infection during pregnancy can have adverse effects on both mother and fetus, including maternal anemia, fetal loss, premature delivery, intrauterine growth retardation, and delivery of low birth-weight infants (<2500 g or <5.5 pounds).
It is a particular problem for women in their first and second pregnancies and for women who are HIV-positive.
The problems that malaria infection causes differ somewhat by the type of malaria transmission area: stable (high) or unstable (low) transmission.
- In high transmission areas, women have gained a level of immunity to malaria that wanes somewhat during pregnancy. Malaria infection is more likely to result in severe maternal anemia and delivery of low birth-weight infants.
- In low transmission areas, women generally have developed no immunity to malaria. Malaria infection is more likely to result in severe malaria disease, maternal anemia, premature delivery, or fetal loss.
Regular followup exams are important after breast cancer treatment. The doctor will continue to check the woman closely to be sure that the cancer has not returned. Regular checkups usually include examinations of the breasts, chest, underarm, and neck. From time to time, the woman has a complete physical exam and a mammogram. Some women may also have additional tests.
A woman who has had cancer in one breast has an increased risk of developing cancer in her other breast. She should report any changes in the treated area or in the other breast to her doctor right away.
Also, a woman who has had breast cancer should tell her doctor about other physical problems if they come up, such as pain, loss of appetite or weight, changes in menstrual cycles, unusual vaginal bleeding, or blurred vision. She should also report dizziness, coughing or hoarseness, headaches, backaches, or digestive problems that seem unusual or that don’t go away. These symptoms may be a sign that the cancer has returned, but they can also be signs of various other problems. It’s important to share your concerns with a doctor.